Dubai gyms reduce class sizes and insist on masks in bid to stay open

Fitness classes have reduced in size and some facilities have begun fogging areas with sanitiser

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Gyms and fitness centres have brought in new safety measures in a bid to cut the chance of coronavirus spreading among clients.

Exercise classes have reduced capacity, equipment has been removed and some managers have made mask-wearing was mandatory, even when undertaking strenuous exercise.

The move came after the authorities imposed new measures at the weekend to tackle the surge in cases, including in the fitness industry.

At Crank in Dubai, an indoor cycling fitness studio, staff fog the studio with disinfectant each evening as well as regularly sanitising throughout the day.

“We have reduced capacity even more, we have gone from 43 bikes, which was full capacity, to 20 bikes at two-metre distance, to 15 bikes at the newly introduced three-metre distance,” said marketing manager Holly Drake.

It is no surprise that as infection rates have risen, we have had people from within our community test positive

“On top of that, to ensure our clients feel safer, we have gone above the guidelines and installed acrylic dividers between every spot.

“Our shape class is down from 15 spots to eight and all benches are three metres apart.”

Ms Drake said extra precaution has been taken related to sick leave.

“We have had staff fall ill [with non-Covid illnesses] and always require each member to take a Covid-19 test before coming back to work to eliminate the risk of bringing Covid into the studio,” she said.

“Thankfully, we have had all negative results come back in this case.”

On Saturday, two gyms were shut for breaching Covid-19 safety rules, following inspections by the city's trading standards agency, Department of Economic Development.

With the recent rise in infections, Marcus Smith, founder of InnerFight, said it has recorded a small number of Covid-19 cases among clients.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 25 JANUARY 2021. The Crank Fit cycling gym in Al Serkal, Dubai has removed some of their bikes from their cycle studio to allow for the newly implemented additional COVID-19 safety protocols that have come into effect. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Kelly Clarke. Section: National.

“It is no surprise that as infection rates have risen, we have had people from within our community test positive,” he said.

“Our approach is maintained and linked to the directives from the authorities in order to protect the health of all and curtail the spread of the virus where we can.

“I like to think that we always tread on the side of caution as that’s our responsibility.”

At Haddins Fitness in Abu Dhabi, fitness coach Ryan Wynn said it set up a WhatsApp for clients and urged them to inform others if they tested positive.

“As soon as they get their test results they send us a message," he said.

"Once we figure out what class they were in if they attended any classes, we contact everyone from that class.

“They must all get tested before they are allowed back in the gym again. In terms of new measures we have taken this is probably the most beneficial for us."

Hundreds of gyms across Dubai were ordered to close in March last year as the first wave spread.

In May, many reopened with various safety measures in place. But with infection rates now at 3,500 per day, gyms are keen to find a way to stay open.

“Should someone test positive for Covid-19 that has visited our facility, we use contact tracing to immediately inform any staff or customers that they have been in close proximity with a positive case," said Brian Cochrane, founder of UnderdogBoxn, a boxing studio in Dubai.

“There is no sharing of equipment of any kind and masks must be worn throughout the facility and can only be lowered or removed during the class itself.

“We keep a 40-minute gap between sessions to thoroughly sanitise the room.”