Hundreds of gyms and fitness studios threaten to reopen -- unless Quebec ponies up COVID-19 data
MONTREAL -- A group of 200 fitness professionals say they will reopen their doors this week unless the Quebec government can prove to them that gyms have been linked to any COVID-19 outbreak.
The group, called the Centres d’activités physiques du Quebec, is made up of gyms, yoga centres, dance studios and martial arts clubs.
They say the Legault government’s decision to shut them down during the province's 28-day red-zone lockdown was arbitrary, and they argue their services are essential to their clients’ mental and physical health during the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Legault announced that lockdown measures in Quebec's red zones will be extended to Nov. 23. But earlier in the day, representatives in the group said that on Thursday -- one day after what was supposed to be the end of the lockdown -- they'll be done with the government rules and will reopen.
"I understand mental health is at risk, but right now we have to choose the best worst solution," said Legault. "The gyms will have to respect the law and police will assure that. They will have fines if they don't respect the law.”
One fitness instructor says she hasn’t seen any proof that gyms pose a COVID-19 health risk, and she expects better communication from the province.
“I think the government needs to step up to the table and tell us what we have been doing right and what we’ve been doing wrong, and how can we re-open in a safe and effective way,” says Suaad Ghadban, the fitness director at Gym St-Henri.
It’s a new version of a complaint heard across many sectors: first from Montreal restaurateurs, then teachers, and now fitness instructors -- that the government makes critical decisions about businesses without their input.
Ghadban says her gym has already spent thousands of dollars outfitting the building to be COVID-safe.
“We have air-filtration systems that are hospital grade, that clean the air in the room every 10 minutes," she said.
"What more can we do? Over $100,000 of implementation -- now we need a solution or we need communication.”
During two press conferences Monday in Montreal and Quebec, the group asked Premier François Legault to either show them proof or lift the order to close their establishments.
“Why is it that every Costco, IKEA, mall is open, but you keep pointing the finger at the health clubs and gyms and saying how it is not a safe place?" said Ghadban.
"That’s the problem. You’re communicating that message to everyone in the community without having proof. And we’re saying gyms are safe," she said.
"They’re just as safe as the mall, as SAQ… if these places are deemed safe, then we’re 100 per cent safe.”
However, while Ghadban says she supports what the group is asking for, her own gym will not reopen without first getting the go-ahead from the government.
--With files from The Canadian Press