SINGAPORE, July 22 — On Tuesday (July 20), when gym owner Jonathan Wong learned about the decision to reimpose Phase Two (heightened alert) measures from today to curb the rapidly rising number of Covid-19 cases, he found it “very difficult to accept”.
Like many operators of fitness studios and gyms, Wong, the owner of Genesis Gyms with three outlets across Singapore, had faced the same set of restrictions from May 14 to June 21, also in response to a rise in community infections.
All indoor mask-off activities, including strenuous exercises in gyms, as well as personalised services which require the taking off of masks such as saunas, had to cease back then under Phase Two (heightened alert). The same rules apply from today to August 18.
Mask-off activities will be allowed only outdoors with a class size limit of two persons.
“Now we have much more (contact) tracing, and increased vaccination rates, but a similar situation has occurred where dumbbells and exercise equipment are still seen as the main culprits,” said Mr Wong.
“The situation is different, but the lockdown is the same.”
Wong and some other operators of gyms and fitness studios interviewed by TODAY bemoaned an expected drop in revenue with some not expecting to make a single cent during the next month.
They also noted that their industry had not caused the recent Covid-19 clusters, and argued that they should not have to be “penalised”.
TODAY also spoke to several health and beauty firms, which will also have to cease mask-off activities from Thursday, who also expressed concern at the expected fall in revenue.
Yesterday, Singapore recorded a third straight day where new Covid-19 cases in the community are in the triple digits. Most of these cases stemmed from either the cluster linked to KTV lounges or the Jurong Fishery Port cluster.
Some gym owners and staff angry, demoralised
Sarah Stuart, owner of fitness firm F45’s Jurong CBD branch believes the Government should calibrate the measures to make it smoother for studios such as hers to continue operating.
“After all these shutdowns, there could have been more consultation and feedback on how it went and what was bad or what was good, but they never did that,” she said. “So they never improved on considering the aches and pains in the industry.”
For instance, she said that there could be more calibrated measures, such as allowing only fully vaccinated individuals to do indoor strenuous activities with their masks off.
“If I could stay open with only vaccinated customers, I could still have a good business,” she said.
During the previous Phase Two (heightened alert) period, Stuart had pivoted her gym outdoors by shifting the equipment to an open space outside the studio to comply with the regulations.
However, this came at a cost: The humidity and heat had caused some of the equipment to get rusty.
“Now we have another four weeks to decide whether we want to take the risk again,” she said.
She added that even by doing the outdoor classes, only 20 per cent of her clients had returned. She expects a similar figure this time should she choose to risk her equipment rusting further.
If she chooses not to pivot outdoors, she could lose all of her business in the next month.
Daphne Loo, a trainer at Strength Avenue, a gym in Boat Quay, said that it is also deciding on whether to continue operating physically outdoors or close for the next month.
The gym offered outdoor facilities during the previous round of heightened measures, but at least 40 per cent of customers dropped out as they were unused to outdoor exercise, she said.
She is expecting to see a further fall in customers, some that it had managed to “win” back when it moved indoors when the measures relaxed briefly.
“We already know there are people who are not willing to do outdoors, and they finally got to go back to the gym (during Phase Three (heightened alert)), only for this to happen again,” said Loo.
“We are very demoralised and very angry.”
Some gym owners say industry has done nothing wrong
Some of the gym owners also expressed frustration that the selfish actions of others had led to the clusters that have triggered the new restrictions.
“I think that there’s a lot more disappointment in the industry because we are being penalised for something that we have not done anything wrong in,” said Stuart.
“We have high standards when it comes to cleaning and adhering to rules, and we are the first to close.”
Agreeing, Wong said that those in the sports and fitness industry are “generally compliant” but have had to bear the brunt of the new measures by being forced to close.
“But the KTVs are fined, which is a tiny fraction of the costs the rest of the businesses are incurring,” he said, adding that this seems to send the wrong message “because it’s better to get fined than to close yourself down”.
Earlier this month, TODAY had visited several KTVs and found that some operators and their patrons regularly ignored the rules and continued to operate illegally.
While several nightclub operators have had their food and beverage licences revoked, the government is considering implementing more measures as the KTV Covid-19 cluster continues to expand.
During the previous heightened restrictions, Wong had also shifted the equipment from one of his gym branches outdoors to a carpark and plans to do so again this time, but still expects revenue to fall by 70 per cent, as only one of the three branches is able to make this switch.
He added that he had applied for rental rebates for the gym and salary rebates for his staff. These had not come in yet, but he hopes he will receive the support by September.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong had said on Tuesday that workers and firms affected by the tightened measures will receive help through a new package of targeted support measures by the Government
TODAY has also reached out to Sport Singapore (SportSG) to ask how it will support the affected gyms and fitness studios.
Some beauty salons ‘100pc impacted’
Several beauty salons that TODAY spoke to that offered facial and other mask-off services have had to cancel reservations, some losing all their customers for the coming month.
At Joyre Skin Care branch at Nex, the staff expects to lose all its revenue in the next month, as it mainly offers facial services, which require its customers to take off their masks.
Joyre’s group general manager Dickson Mah said that the two Joyre Skin Care branches — the other is in Jurong point — will be “100 per cent impacted”, based on their experience from the previous restrictions, when they lost all their customer bookings.
“The staff will definitely be demoralised, as this will affect their income,” he said.
He added that though the basic pay of the staff will not be cut, they will not be receiving any commissions over the next month as there will be no customers.
Joyre group has 29 other branches offering services such as traditional Chinese medicine and massage.
Mah is looking for three types of assistance: Rental relief, more wage subsidies for his workers as well as for accessories and equipment that the company needs to purchase.
Kelly Wee, the branch manager at Avone Beauty Secrets in Jubilee Square at Ang Mo Kio, expects business revenue to fall more than 50 per cent drop over the upcoming month.
The beauty treatment outlet will have to cease all facial appointments and some mask-off mole removal procedures.
While it provides other services such as hair treatment, from previous experience, she already knows that these heightened measures will mean fewer customers will drop by.
“We will be affected, but we have no choice but to abide by the restrictions,” she said. ― TODAY