AMPANG, Aug 23 — Gym owners today urged the Health Ministry to look into whether running open-air gyms is permissible, as many business owners are close to shutting down permanently as they are still not allowed to operate.
Gymnasium Entrepreneurs Association Malaysia (Persatuan Pengusaha Gymnasium Malaysia) president Krishna Kumar said the idea was developed following suggestions among his members.
“Since gyms are indoors, the Health Ministry constantly rejected our appeals to reopen, even for those who have been fully vaccinated, claiming it could potentially spread Covid-19,” he told reporters at the open-air gym he had set up outside Destar Arena at Kampung Lembah Jaya Selatan.
Noting that so far there have been no gym-related Covid-19 cases or clusters, Krishna said his association has developed potential standard operating procedures (SOP) that could be used, should open-air gyms are given the green light.
“For example, we will limit usage to 10 people at any given time. They can simply walk in and pay a fee that they feel is reasonable, and will then be allowed to use the gym for an hour.
“I suggest open-air gyms be allowed to run from 7am to 7pm. I would also like to know if gym owners will be permitted to set up tents or marquees, to provide some shade for gym goers from the excessive midday heat,” he said.
The 44-year old added that this is his second time setting up an open-air gym, as the first one he set up in Sungai Long, Cheras, was well-received by the surrounding community.
“I still do not understand why gyms are not allowed to operate, despite all other sporting and exercise sectors receiving permission to resume operations. If there are concerns that working out in an indoor, enclosed space could lead to new infections, then this is an easily implementable solution.
“Gyms may not be an essential sector but if they do not contribute to cases then I do not see why they have to remain closed. The association hopes that newly-appointed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and his Cabinet, once appointed, will consider our plight as many of us are on our last legs,” Krishna said.
Association secretary Azlan Supian said they conducted a survey among 350 member gyms on their operations in June, which was completed last month.
“The losses vary, but I can safely say they are considerable. For gyms operating in the outskirts of urban areas or small towns, they lose on average between RM7,500 to RM10,000 a month, having to pay for rent and utilities.
“But for gym owners in urban areas or major cities, these losses can easily run up to RM15,000 a month, with RM10,000 alone going for rent. On average, this means gym owners face losses amounting to RM30,000,” he said.
Even assistance provided by the government, such as a one-off payment of RM3,000 to sporting industry operators in late June, is barely sufficient,.
“Many owners have had to shut down their businesses and end up heavily in debt because they were not allowed to operate. Although certain banks like Bank Rakyat have offered loans to us, these offers are not feasible.
“For example, the loans’ interest rate stands at four per cent. Prior to Covid-19, this would have been reasonable but now is not the case, as there is no guarantee that gym owners like myself will be in the business for the long-term given the way things are going,” Azlan said.
The 36-year old added that gym owners need more assistance to continue surviving.
“The loan offers also come with conditions that I frankly think are ridiculous. One states that bank officials must visit the gym’s physical location to determine if the application is genuine or not.
“However we are told that they cannot come due to Covid-19 and the movement control order. So we are stuck as we desperately need money now,” he said.