The Fitness Industry Association of Sarawak, a collective of commercial gymnasium and fitness studio operators throughout Sarawak, urges the government to prioritize the reopening of the fitness sector for fully-vaccinated customers.
“We are thankful to the Sarawak government for the high vaccination rates,” says Mariah Nawawi, owner of Plumeria Fitness & Beauty Studio in Bintulu. “Despite the spread of Delta variant, ICU and fatality rates have continued to fall. This means the vaccines are working as expected.”
As of 5 August 2021, 85.3% Sarawakian adults are now vaccinated with at least one dose and 69.1% of Sarawakian adults are fully-vaccinated. ICU rates had dropped 83% from a peak of 110 in June to just 25 as of this week.
With such a high vaccination and recovery rate, Mariah feels that the time is right to put the livelihood of fitness sector operators, as well as the physical and mental health of Sarawakians back into focus.
The pandemic exposes a shocking increase in stress and mental health crisis. Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah revealed in a press conference this week that attempted suicide in Sarawak had increased by 12.5% compared to last year. There were 37 suicide cases recorded for the first half of 2021 alone, compared to a total of 49 suicide cases for the whole of 2020.
New evidence such as a recent study by Glasgow Caledonian University also shows that an active person is 50% more likely to have higher antibodies after a vaccine, compared to someone who is sedentary. Being physically active strengthens the immune system, and prevents non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, which are alarmingly among the main contributors to COVID-19 deaths.
Unlike pre-pandemic, the fitness sector in Sarawak have already started implementing tight SOPs including reduced capacity, prior online booking before attendance, mandating face masks even while exercising, disinfecting equipment between uses, opening windows and doors for better ventilation on top of other safety measures.
Addressing the elephant in the room, Level Up Fitness director Kenny Sia recognizes that some parties still mistakenly believe that exercising at gymnasiums or fitness studios is high risk.
“That cannot be further from the truth,” he said. “Many fitness operators have already implemented very tight supervision and SOPs since the beginning. As a result, there is no virus transmissions that can be linked to gymnasiums, yoga or Zumba studios in Sarawak since 18 months ago.”
Kok Yung Kai of Speed Fitness Miri said that like many business premises such as offices, eateries and supermarkets, the fitness sector too have had their share of asymptomatic customers and PUIs visiting. “Nonetheless we are proud to say that our tight SOPs, our diligent contact-tracing and immediate closing have prevented any close or casual contacts from being infected as well.”
“This shows that our SOPs work,” he added. “With all our staff now fully-vaccinated and by admitting only vaccinated customers, we are confident these SOPs will continue to work if we are allowed to reopen,”
The Fitness Industry Association of Sarawak urges the Sarawak government to allow them to work hand in hand to lead our community towards building a stronger immunity and mental health.
“Fitness is an industry that encompasses thousands of Sarawakian employees including trainers, coaches, hospitality staff, receptionists and cleaners. All these employees rely on the fitness industry to make an honest living in order to put food on their tables and send their children to school. We have suffered for much of the pandemic, and we humbly ask for Sarawak Disaster Management Committee to consider the livelihoods of those in the fitness sector,” concluded Leonard Leong of Core Reactor Studio in Miri.