'Devastated' gym industry hangs on Friday announcement

Australia's fitness industry is waiting on Friday's announcement from prime minister Scott Morrison with baited breath, as new research has revealed how the coronavirus ripped the sector apart.

'Devastated' gym industry hangs on Friday announcement

Australia's fitness industry is waiting on Friday's announcement from the prime minister with baited breath, as new research reveals how the coronavirus ripped the sector apart.

Scott Morrison may announce gyms can reopen with tight restrictions on social distancing and other health measures, Fitness Australia chief executive Barrie Elvish told .

"Nobody wants to put their name to that, but that's what I'm hearing," Mr Elvish said.

If this prediction proves correct, it will bring some relief to many of Australia's 35,000 fitness professionals and 4 million people who have gym memberships across the country.

Mr Elvish said discussions indicated gyms could open with a maximum of 10 people per room, with similar restrictions in outdoor classes.

"We could reopen in the same way we were eventually shut down," he said.

He was guardedly "optimistic" Mr Morrison would lay out these plans on Friday, when the prime minster is expected to declare further easing of social restrictions in the country.

a Fitness Australia report found a massive 81 per cent of exercise professionals lost their job or main source of income when gyms were closed on March 23.

The bleak report stated 90 per cent of gym owners were continuing to pay up to $5000 a month in costs despite not operating.

Some gyms had managed to move a sprinkling of classes online, while one-on-one personal training is allowed outdoors.

The report says revenue was down 100 per cent for half of all owners.

Fewer than three in 10 fitness professionals had worked with a single client in six weeks since closing.

"The report reinforced our underlying fear and feeling that many, many businesses have been devastated," Mr Elvish said.

Baby steps to open up the industry would be "a huge boost" but many challenges for the mothballed sector lie ahead, he cautioned.

"It's frustrating for gyms to be heaped alongside gyms, cafes, bars and cinemas," Mr Elvish said.

"Of all businesses, because of digital membership cards, nobody is better placed than gyms to track when someone enters and exits and how long they have spent inside."

If gyms were given the green light, Mr Elvish said it was vital all owners enforce restrictions on capacity and cleaning guidelines to the absolute letter.

"The last thing the industry would want is a Ruby Princess situation in a gym," he said, referencing the riddled cruise ship responsible for Australia's worst cluster outbreak.

"Like any sector, there are good operators and not so good operators. Everyone has to do their bit."

Mr Elvish said early data from international markets where gyms had already reopened showed that gym memberships had not suffered significant cancellations.

But older members, who face graver coronavirus risks, had chosen to stay away for now.

"I think we'll see the same in Australia. The younger more gung-ho demographic will rush back, while the older membership will be more cautious to begin with," he said.

Mr Elvish also expected some bigger gyms to remain temporarily closed, even if Mr Morrison gives the go-ahead for opening.

If a 10 person maximum rule is operational, it may not be "financially viable" for large gyms to open for business.

Fitness Australia says around 6500 businesses in the gym sector contribute $3 billion annually to the national economy.

Contact me: msaunoko@nine.com.au


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Ardern to join National Cabinet to discuss 'trans-Tasman bubble'

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern will be joining Australia's National Cabinet meeting to contribute to the discussion about the 'Trans-Tasman Bubble'.

Ardern to join National Cabinet to discuss 'trans-Tasman bubble'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be joining Australia's National Cabinet meeting tomorrow to contribute to the discussion about the COVID-19 pandemic response, including the potential of the 'trans-Tasman Bubble'.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison invited Ms Ardern to the meeting with all state and territory premiers and chief ministers to flesh out how the national can re-establish safe travel between each other.

The 'bubble' concept is a possibility because of both nations' low rate of new coronavirus infections and a declining number of active cases since shutting down their borders in March.

Australia has 869 active cases, and New Zealand has 211 as of publication.

If such an arrangement could be made, it would be an important step in kick-starting the tourism industry for both economies which have been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, bringing commercial travel to a grinding halt.

For the 'bubble' to work it would require a new set of strict guidelines for travel.

The government is encouraging more Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to assist with tracking cases of coronavirus as it attempts to slowly loosen restrictions, and Mr Morrison is expected to suggest to Ms Ardern a similar app be developed for New Zealand.

Though there are very few flights going in and out of Australia at the moment, all international arrivals are still subject to a 14-day quarantine under observation before they can return to their homes, with Queensland, WA, South Australia and the Northern Territory enforcing additional quarantine measures when arriving from interstate too.

Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison at a press conference outside Kirribilli House.

But if the 2000km route between New Zealand and Australia were to open up later this year to tourists, people might have to expect a few more hurdles while travelling through airports, like temperature checks, COVID-19 tests, and detailed itinerary information to be supplied, as added safety measures.

"If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Mr Morrison said last month.

"That is a situation we would all like to be in, but of course, our number one focus at the moment is making sure that both our countries are in the position where we're domestically managing COVID-19 to a point where we can with confidence open borders," Ms Ardern added last week.

"One thing I'm not willing to do is jeopardise the position that New Zealand has got itself into by moving too soon to open our borders - even to Australia."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference on the government's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at Parliament House

The ski season is in September in New Zealand, and every year thousands of Aussies make the trip, with travel and work permitted indefinitely across the ditch with an Australian passport and likewise for Kiwis in Australia.

Almost 40 per cent of international arrivals to New Zealand are from Australia, heavily contributing to the country's greatest industry - tourism.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters seemed enthusiastic about the 'bubble' being established between the two nations, but also urged caution.

"[We're] two of the most integrated economies in the world. The idea of a bubble with Australia was floated two weeks ago, and this is an example of the sort of action that could happen within it, while always ensuring the protection of public health," he said.

"Officials in both countries are considering all aspects of the trans-Tasman concept, and planning how this could happen more broadly. A trans-Tasman bubble needs to be carefully managed as we move out our COVID-19 restrictions."

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