Written by: Prof. Fu Hoo Kin Frank MH, JP, Executive Chancellor of SERA
Photo source: TUV Rheinland
The Government required employees of Hong Kong gyms to be screened for the coronavirus by Sunday (14/3/2021) if they were allowed to open. Since the city confirmed 60 new infections on Friday (12/3/2021), the public fears that another possible outbreak might be happening soon. Most of the latest cases were linked to a “cluster” at Ursus Fitness in Sai Ying Pun. So far, a total of 64 cases were linked to this fitness centre in just 3 days and increased to 122 cases in 6 days. The city’s tally of infections stood at 11,210, with 203 related deaths.
Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory expert doctor at Chinese University, said the outbreak was similar to the dance clubs outbreak earlier that ultimately affected 732 people – the largest in Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic. “I worry the big outbreak at the fitness centre will be the prelude to the fifth wave, but the Centre for Health Protection very quickly quarantined close contacts. Hopefully that will stop the virus from spreading everywhere in the community. We will need to closely monitor the situation,” Hui told a local radio programme. He noted the gym was popular and might have customers who also frequented other fitness centres, potentially carrying the virus with them.
“As coronavirus cluster linked to Hong Kong gym spreads, are city’s fitness centres safe enough to remain open?” (Phila Siu and Gigi Choy)
The recent outbreak prompted government officials to step up safety measures at fitness centres across the city. Instead of reacting to this potential outbreak, it is believed that a more comprehensive system and guidelines should be in place and enforced to prevent another outbreak similar to the dance group earlier such as:
1. Requirements/Compliances by Gym/Fitness Center owners and users
- Temperature check
- Clean hands with alcohol
- Use “Leave Home Safe” app
- Wear face masks (even when doing aerobic exercise)
- Clean equipment and facilities after use every time
- Have adequate staff on duty
- Staff must be tested for the virus every 2 weeks
- Improve air ventilation – meeting air flow requirement (more stringent than restaurant) – ventilation of exercisers will increase to two to three folds (from normally 16-18 times/min to 40-50/min during aerobic exercise)
- Safe distance with petitions between stations
- Forbid eating and drinking on site
- Reduce maximum capacity to 50% (including locker room and shower)
- Install surveillance cameras to allow better monitoring
- Provision of clean towel service.
2. Recommended Policies and Regulations
- Gym/Fitness center operators must observe the requirements suggested under #1 or face the consequence of being shut down and fined
- The Government inspects the Gym/Fitness center sites and issue a temporary permit for them to open and operate
- Similar regulations for indoor exercise facilities should be in place and they should be monitored more regularly
- Users should be encouraged to be tested for the coronavirus before they come to the Gym/Fitness Center
It will take another 1-2 months for the vaccination to work and 9-12 months to reach the level of herd immunity. In the meantime, we should exercise to stay healthy and maintain a strong immune system. At the same time do so diligently and in compliance with suggested measures to prevent/minimize the transmission of the coronavirus.
Nonetheless, this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic requires teamwork, cooperation, self-discipline, and practice of scientific findings/recommendations (as stated under #1 – requirements/compliances and #2 – recommendations).
Hong Kong expecting about 60 new coronavirus (SCMP)