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Virgin Active ‘disappointed’ by 50-person limit but plans Monday reopening

Planet Fitness, its biggest local competitor, started opening gyms this week.
The group says it is still waiting for government to release the Level 2 protocols for gyms. Image: Moneyweb

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.

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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.

“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.

A screenshot of the Virgin Active post that appeared on its website on Tuesday. Image: Suren Naidoo

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.

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%.

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Well absolutely nothing happened to the taxi industry when they openly defied lockdown regulations, so why should anything happen to the otherwise law-abiding, tax-paying and well-regulated fitness industry. When a Government treats taxi thugs like ‘royalty’ and threatens law-abiding citizens it sends a certain message to the population.

Maybe they need to charge us half price and add the other half if I utilise the gym at least once a month.

The people are still being bombarded with fear mongering despite the virus having moved so far on that not even the taxi effort to spread it is working. The restrictions that the gyms have had imposed upon them makes them basically unusable for purpose, but they must try to keep alive somehow and reopening under these insane restrictions is what they must do in order to bring some money in. They just hope that members will understand and support by paying fees and hope that normal business is permitted again soon. But that decision will take far more political backbone and common sense than has so far been evident.

As deep level health insurers, surely Discovery should know better than to be associated with Virgen gyms opening up at all?

Besides allowing taxis to run full, this is the most irresponsible corporate this for general health and safety.

How can you even compare the two industries? Gyms should never have closed in the first place. Healthier or fitter people have a higher chance of coping with any viral infection. Keeping fit should have ben encouraged by the government. Gyms would be a more sanitized environment vs a Taxi.

You are not understanding the virus or the health risks.

Highly irresponsible of discovery to be associated with the gyms reopening now. Where is their corporate ethics??

Sometimes you make a lot of sense. This is not one of those times. Pragmatism is something to strive for, not something to avoid.

Our most fundamental problem in this country is that we have too few people in gyms, and too many people in parliament.

@Sensei. Sly upper cut just landed

C’mon Virgin Active – Wake Up !!!!!!

This is a fight for your very survival as a business and the best you can do is send tweets and other messages about being “grateful for this ..” this and “disappointed with that.

Soon – you will not have a business.

It is actually worse than people think. In terms of the governement’s social distancing rules for gyms, you have to pull in your stomoach for the whole duration of your training session 😉

Hell that’s going to be difficult as my beer boep is now out of control since we can now drink again.

@Colson re taxi thugs: Taxi owners are voters who transport millions of other voters. The rest of us are not voters. Do the math

Another Government no brained rule . Surely the number of people in the gym must relate to the size of the gym . So calculate one person for very 4 to 6 square meters. This requires some maths so beyond our Governments expertise

Counting to 50 for most of the guwwament is a challenge already. Now you want them to do real maths?!

Government can only count up to 20 – 10 toes and 10 fingers. Counting up to 50 would therefore require 2.5 government cadre employees ensuring job creation

Private gyms must be excited by the opportunity this presents!

Too much like hard work. Blanket ‘bans’ and other arbitrary rules that treat us like children are far easier.

The 50 people vs the sqm size is irrelevant. People share equipment and move around.

By now, I would have expected a business like virgin active to come up with solutions and not just sit around and wait for regulations.

So how was 50 the number ? Taxis used percentages no matter the size of taxi ……. This whole thing is a crock of S…….

Virgin Active sent the solutions to guavament a couple of months ago. It was widely publicised.

The limit is less of an issue. I dont think many are going back anytime soon after finding alternative exercises for 5 months, and the mask and sanitizer requirements at gym vs nothing at home. Lets see.

A gym has to be one of the most inherent touch transfer locations for the spreading of the virus. Even with sanitizers, masks and social distancing. Rather go for a run on the open road, path or beach.

Sadly have cancelled gym membership…now train at Garage Active…outlay equal to a few years of gym memberships, but now train anytime I want in shorts and bare feet, no travel, no parking, no booking gym, no mask…can cough, splutter, wheeze and sneeze to my heart’s content, and the takeaway pizza guy knows where I train…

Good luck to you my honourable compatriot. Soon we will see your stuff on gumtree because you realised that although you have all the expensive equipment, you lack the motivation that you get for free at the gym. Testosterone is the great motivating force that sends healthy individuals to a facility where lovely and healthy people wear tight clothing. You get the most important and priceless part of fitness and health, namely motivation, for free at a gym near you.

Does the 50 include staff members? If yes, then that may only leave 40 slots for members at the bigger gyms

The unfit hooligans in Luthuli House wants to regulate the fit members of society. They restrict the activities of proactive and responsible citizens in gyms, while they enable and reward the activities of the unaccountable criminals in parliament.

So how many “groups of 50 persons” can a single, large gym accommodate for example? 😉

The spinning section can hold say a max 50 persons (and not mixing with other groups).

The weights section also have a 50-person limit in that area of the gym… They are contained in that part 😉

Circumvention…..capiche?

A church could also be clever…max 50 on the left of isle & 50 limit on right of isle, and another 50 say on the elevated/raised sections (..and each group not mixing with the other).

People, keep 2m APART please!

Hell yeah…come to taxis…make it max 50 per vehicle, should be safer (in helping the spread of Covid & more getting wiped out in collisions)

I like this. Perhaps we can also connect the gym equipment to the grid and help eskom generate some additional load… that way the gym can win as it becomes an essential service.

Is it just me who is somewhat leery of Mr Wiese’s desire for profit over his concern for the health of Virgin Active’s members?

I don’t know,I think everyone is just happy they can get on with life. We all understands the issue, but most of us prefer to take the precautions we feel necessary and not live in fear and disdain.
As many have said, the choice is yours, if you feel the risk is too great, just stay at home.

I’ve been doing that and practicing yoga and t’ai chi for about 35 years, walked 4kms along the mountain this morning, eat sensibly so I’ve never had the need, thankfully, to be a hamster on one of the gym machines.

But some folks like it …

It is so DAMN simple – if you are concerned about contracting the virus, practicing social distancing, washing your groceries etc, as Samuel L Jackson said in a recent video meme, “STAY THE F AT HOME”

Those that are ok with it, allow them their right to freedom of movement! If gyms, bars, nightclubs restaurants etc allowed full access and you don’t like it, STAY THE F AT HOME.

Never seen the inside of a gym. I find the running around the block, just to return to my own house, a little dull, but at least you see nice houses along the way. But running on the same place for an hour – plain stupidity.

I prefer also the sport/exercise of “moving scenery”, like jogging, canoeing, cycling, etc. Even Karate is better than gym….it exercise the mind as well.

Never mind you “seeing the inside” of a gym, have you smelt the stale air in some lower-rent gyms? 🙁

Rules made by people who are strangers to a gym and have not got a cooking clue about the economies involved. There are vast amounts of space in the gym that I frequent and physical distancing will not be an issue even with more than 50 people. Most people train with those whom they socialise with. The rules about sweat towels means that when I ride on a bike I shall spread my sweat everywhere whereas if I use a towel to mop up the sweat on me – as I usually do – then all the better. I shall take a small towel, tuck it into my shorts and use it on myself util stopped or thrown out of the gym. Time to get more lard arses into the gym!

End of comments.

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