South Africa’s largest gym chain Virgin Active may not be happy about the 50-person limit placed on gyms and fitness centres as part of the government’s Covid-19 Level 2 regulations, but is still planning to reopen its facilities countrywide on August 24.
The group, which is majority-owned by Christo Wiese’s JSE-listed investment holding firm Brait SE, confirmed the reopening plans in a post on Twitter on Wednesday. It said it plans to open its doors on Monday at 5am.
The move follows South Africa relaxing its Covid-19 restrictions to Level 2 on Tuesday (August 18), under which gyms can now operate. Level 2 has also seen the unbanning of inter-provincial leisure travel as well as the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
Virgin Active said earlier this week that it was awaiting gym protocols from government before it would reopen, but seems to have changed tack, opting to announce the Monday opening date in the hope that government will release the detailed gym protocols before then.
‘Law and safety first’
“As we stand today, the entire gym industry has not received the government protocols which it must follow and does not have permission from government to open. We are aware that some gym operators have opened despite this, however, Virgin Active’s responsibility is to put the law, and the safety of our members first,” the group noted in its Twitter post.
— Virgin Active (@virginactiveSA) August 19, 2020
“At present, government has indicated a 50-person limit for gyms. We are optimising our classes and large estate to ensure you can be active in our safe and inclusive environments … We will update you on all the upgrades and improvements to our member experience in the next few days,” it added in the post directed at members.
Moneyweb sent Virgin Active a list of questions on Tuesday, but it is yet to respond.
While the group has taken a more cautious stance than Planet Fitness and other gym operators on reopening its facilities this week, it also appears unhappy about government’s 50-person limit (at any one time) within gym facilities.
In a post on its website on Tuesday, the group welcomed the news that gyms can open in Level 2.
“We are however very disappointed to hear that government has imposed a 50-person limit on gyms. We will explore every avenue to ensure that this limit is lifted,” it said.
The post, however, seems to have been removed from Virgin Active’s website.
The group’s biggest competitor, Planet Fitness, opened its Gauteng gyms on Wednesday and its facilities in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal today (Thursday).
A staff member at the Planet Fitness JustGym at the Pearls of Umhlanga shopping centre in Durban confirmed that the club had opened on Thursday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said that the gym was “not so busy” but had been receiving lots of calls regarding its reopening.
Google search’s showed that Planet Fitness’s gyms in other parts of Durban and Cape had also opened with closing times varying between 9pm and 10pm.
We are open and excited to Welcome you all back!
You may have some questions returning back to your favorite club.
We have prepared an FAQ page for you to have some of your questions answered https://t.co/fS9Dt3jCrX.
KZN and CPT Clubs will re-open on Thursday the 20 / 8. pic.twitter.com/k5EVFf9vHx
— Planet Fitness (@PlanetFitnessZA) August 19, 2020
Brait’s share price was up just over 5% on the JSE on Wednesday, buoyed by the easing of restrictions to Level 2. Its Virgin Active operation in South Africa has been closed for almost five months, together with all other gyms and fitness centres, since the initial ‘hard’ lockdown in late March.
- Brait’s share price lost most of its Wednesday gains on Thursday, closing at R2.95. This was in-line with the JSE, which was down just over 1.4%.