B.C. health officials have made the decision to reopen gyms and fitness centres across the province while opting to extend restrictions on gathering sizes, bars and restaurants, and event capacity limits.
Dr. Henry announced the news on Tuesday, suggesting officials are taking a “cautious approach” to reopen exercise facilities, adding in capacity limits and BC vaccine passport requirements.
Officials have worked to reassess the COVID data and piece together new guidelines for gyms in B.C. to abide by once they can reopen officially on January 20.
Dr. Henry says that individual and group fitness will be able to resume on Thursday, with proof of vaccine being required upon entry into workout locations.
Gyms will be required to have limits of a minimum of a seven metres squared space (about 2.5×2.5 metres) for each individual person to exercise, according to the new guidelines. The spacing requirements apply to both people working out on their own as well as group fitness classes.
Dr. Henry says that there must be enhanced ventilation with no fans or heaters, making sure that there is a reduction in virus spreading.
Gyms are strongly encouraged to look at pre-bookings and building in space between classes if possible, to minimize the number of people in the facility at one time.
Masks will be required to be worn at all times throughout workout facilities except while exercising. Dr. Henry, however, strongly encourages the use of masks during exercising whenever possible as an added layer of safety. Instructors and personal trainers will be required to wear masks at all times as well.
“I really want to thank the owners and operators and staff who have worked in gyms around the province and who recognize that this was another change and very challenging situation with the spread of Omicron,” said Dr. Henry.
“They did what we asked to protect their workers and their gym communities and I’m very grateful that they’ve taken these measures.:
Dr. Henry refers to the decision to close gyms as “difficult” but says that it gave health officials time to assess the landscape and ensure additional measures could be put in place to address the rise in cases.
The news will come as music to the ears of many, as there have been negative reactions across the province since the decision by the government to close gyms. Protests, petitions and letters were all tools used by the fitness community in an effort to have the government change their decision and reveal the data that showed gyms as being a place of high COVID transmission.
The other measures that were deployed in December, including restrictions on gatherings and event capacity limits, are being extended until February 16. At this time, the government plans on assessing the current COVID situation in B.C. and making a decision on restrictions moving forward.
This applies to current restrictions in bars and nightclubs as well as the 50 per cent capacity limits at theatres and sporting events.
“Our challenge is to find that balance in making sure we are doing just enough to address the situations we’re in and not allowing our system to be overrun, with a focus on minimizing serious risks, and hospitalizations, but also minimizing the societal impacts as well,” said Dr. Henry during the press conference on Tuesday.
The COVID safety plan order remains in place for workplaces as well.