Petition Keep gyms open and enforce masks and 2-metre distancing for extra protection.

Please consider keeping the gyms open and enforcing masks and 2-metre social distancing to further prevent the spread of COVID, instead of closing gyms and causing mental health issues to rise in the Island.

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Only 2% of transmissions locally have come from gyms and indoor sports facilities. There's only been one gym with an outbreak due to a member coming in unwell, not due to the safety measures that gym has in place. Other sectors with a higher transmission rate are allowed to remain open.

The gym isn't just a place people come to exercise, for most it's their 'safe place' and a place where they feel a sense of belonging. During the last lockdown there was a 200% increase in calls to mental health services. If gyms remained open it would certainly help prevent this detrimental damage to happen again.

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Ministers responded

This response was given on 19 January 2021

Decisions about when to apply measures are based on the specific infection patterns observed. This targeted approach led to the difficult decision to temporarily close indoor sport and exercise venues

It is recognised that indoor sports and recreation facilities, which include gyms, play a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of Islanders. That is why, throughout 2020, we followed a managed return to activity, whilst ensuring that public health measures were maintained. This balanced approach ensured the mental and physical wellbeing of Islanders. However, the safety of customers, staff, volunteers and their families always remains the absolute priority.
The exponential rises in COVID-19 activity across early warning indicators over November and December pointed to a meaningful and consistent increase in positive cases where community transmission was established. The case evidence of the time showed that Jersey was moving rapidly through the escalation framework ‘Early Warning’ Phase and toward the ‘Epidemic Response’ phase. Robust additional action to target the virus alongside stronger universal measures was needed to slow the spread of infection. The COVID-19 Winter Strategy states that Government will attempt to counter threats on a targeted basis, before putting in place significant island-wide, or universal restrictions. Decisions about when to apply targeted or more universal measures are based on the specific infection patterns observed. This targeted approach led to the difficult decision to temporarily close indoor sport and exercise venues, while outdoor sport and exercise and exercising at home remain open and available.
Two metre physical distancing is currently a universal public health measure and the guidelines do not recommend the wearing of masks during exercise or strenuous activity. This is due to potential health harms and difficulty breathing if worn during physical activity.
Evidence shows that gyms and other providers of indoor exercise are lower risk when compared to hospitality. However, they are not risk-free. Accordingly, when gyms were open there were restrictions in place regarding the intensity levels, with the stipulation that only low or moderate intensity activity was permissible. This is because the virus is spread through droplet transmission in the air as well as via the many touch points and surfaces where the virus can land. Heavy breathing, as a result of high intensity activity, raises this risk considerably and there is reasonable biological plausibility of respiratory droplets and aerosol spread as well as through touch points etc.
The Government is committed to protect Islanders through the targeted de-escalation of measures based on evidence as well on local data and intelligence. We have had at least one indoor exercise business linked to significant spread of COVID-19; several other providers have also seen cases amongst clients. A review of our cases associated with indoor exercise provision show one large cluster of 22 cases from one setting – these cases included personal trainers. The direct contacts from this cluster had a median range of 9 with a maximum of 32.
At least a further 20 cases (again including personal trainers/instructors) have been identified across six other indoor exercise settings during a likely infectious period.
At the time when case numbers were rising, it was increasingly likely that positive cases would use services. Additionally, we know that the 20- to 40-year age group is both a strong demographic in this sector and linked with community spread.
Risk had been established in the local context and therefore a cautious approach was taken in order to protect Islanders from further spread in the context of increasing case numbers. This is consistent with other measures taken to minimise the potential for people gathering. As the Government policy and guidance makes clear, everyone should limit the number of people with whom they have social contact to help restrict the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore, Islanders have been advised to socialise outside, wherever possible, as the risk of the spread of the virus is higher inside.
We will continually monitor the situation with a view to relaxing this measure as soon as it is safe to do so.

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