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Gyms To Reopen 'In Days' In Some Parts Of Australia, 'In Weeks' For Others

The NT has already set a date for re-opening gyms, and when the Prime Minister unveiled his three stage plan to get the country back on its feet on Friday, other states and territories laid out their plans.

On May 15 people living in the NT can don their favourite activewear and head back to the gym, as the region downgrades its social distancing measures. The announcement comes after the NT recorded no new cases of coronavirus for more than three weeks.

Locals are being urged to continue to maintain a safe distance from each other in what has been described as the "roadmap to our new normal".

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Gyms and fitness studios across the country shut down on March 22 due to potential health risks -- authorities feared people sweating, breathing heavily during workouts and sharing equipment could all potentially lead to virus transmission.

Image: Supplied.

The re-opening of gyms are part of stage two of the plan which is likely to be rolled out as early as the start of June in some parts of the country.

Now, even as restrictions relax, health experts don't want you to get too excited about getting back to your favourite F45 class or weight-lifting session, because gyms won't look and feel the same for some time.

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"People work very hard at the gym , they sweat, they breathe and puff very heavily so they are pushing out droplets and particles -- you have to ensure that people have more than two metres between each other to be safe," Professor Marylouise McLaws, an infectious disease expert at UNSW and advisor to the WHO, said.

I think the rest of gyms opening is a matter of weeks away.

"I would select the 1st of June because that gives us a month, and that is several times the incubation period -- because normally what we do in an outbreak is consider the last case and then multiply the incubation by two," she said.

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McLaws, who advises the WHO on COVID-19 policy, said fitness classes would need to be reduced in size and overall gym capacity reduced.

"They would have to have very strict cleaning of the equipment each time it was used -- you can't just rely on the person before you having done a thorough job," McLaws told 10 daily.

The fitness industry's peak body presented its reopening plans to state health departments for review.

"We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers," Barrie Elvish, CEO of Fitness Australia said.

Elvish said this includes high frequency cleaning and sanitation, spacing of equipment through to protective wear and equipment for employees and members, reduced capacity for classes and outdoor fitness options.

He said Fitness Australia  has been working with government authorities, industry as well as  international counterparts, including UK Active and IHRSA, Exercise NZ.

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The South Australian Government's roadmap to ease restrictions sees gyms  for groups of up to 20 people on June 8.

Queensland's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told her state will start to see relaxed restrictions from May 16 and  "Outdoor gymnasiums, parks, a maximum of 10 people allowed." The next phase will include opening gyms.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says several announcements will be made for his state next week, but stressed all the recommendations from stage one will not be made at once referring to Morrison's plan as a "menu" he would choose from. This suggests opening gyms which are part of stage two, could be several weeks away.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will also make further announcements on Monday.

Some states overseas have already re-opened gym facilities.

American states of Georgia and Oklahoma have allowed gyms to resume trade.  There will be precautions taken, such as reducing class sizes as well as restricting overall capacity. Some smaller gyms will also ask gym-goers to wear a mask while training.

This is despite the fact that Georgia is still reporting more than 300 new cases a day.

Image: Getty Images

Other countries are being far more cautious, and seem to be in no hurry to open fitness centres, despite reporting very low or no new cases of COVID-19 for several days.

On April 20, Hong Kong reported zero new cases of coronavirus,  yet the government has said it will maintain social distancing measures like keeping gyms closed for at least another fortnight.

In South Korea, gym restrictions started loosening this week, and the country is reporting less than five new cases a day.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au