We, the Latvian Health and Fitness Association, currently unite about 70% of Latvian sports clubs together with an annual turnover of 25 million, of which 5 million are paid in taxes (before restrictions) and serve about 150 thousand people a year.
In our opinion, there is no economic justification for the possibility to open only to vaccinated, COVID-19-infected and tested customers, it may rather lead to the bankruptcy of the industry, therefore LVFA members decided at the general meeting not to open such a condition. (The exception is one municipal company and two very small fitness studios.) We are already in a very limited situation - we have applied for additional state financial support, as the existing support does not reach us due to the specifics of our work (square footage is relatively small) . At the moment, the government approved support only for the period January, February, March, but now it is already June. Support for April and May has not yet been confirmed. We have huge demands from creditors, landlords and as soon as we open this wave of demands will overwhelm us. No matter how much public interest there is in sports clubs, the intensity of attendance with such restrictions is not enough. Sports and fitness clubs have huge space, but utility bills are also relevant in the summer (room cooling, ventilation) and we, as an industry, do not see the opportunity to open with such a limited number of visitors.
Some of our members have conducted express surveys of their regular customers, which show that 40% have been vaccinated, as many are happy to do so, and about 20% are skeptical about it for various reasons.
Our industry has been hit hard since the first wave of the pandemic last spring, citing serious financial losses. We believe that we are currently facing unequal restrictions and disproportionate restrictions. We have been in active dialogue with almost all state institutions for some time now, including the Ministry of Education, Deputy State Secretary - Edgars Severas, Director of the Department, and the Ministry of Economics, but unfortunately we cannot establish the necessary dialogue with the Ministry of Health. The conclusion at the moment is that Latvia is the only country in Europe where the clear opening date of sports and fitness clubs is unknown. In addition, Latvia is among the few European countries and the only one among the neighboring countries to run only immune sports clubs.
LVFA has also established a Safe Operation Protocol, which was agreed with the LDDK and the Ministry of Education and in which the mentioned restrictions and safety requirements are already higher than in our neighboring countries, so we do not see any justification why we should place an even greater burden.
Not all employees, as well as not all residents of Latvia, have been vaccinated, and if the government is able to impose such a restriction that only vaccinated people can work, then it must also bear the financial costs due to such a decision, as not all employees will be able to fulfill their obligations. duties, but will have to pay their salaries. Also, you can already see the outrage among sports club customers, unvaccinated subscription holders, who are starting to demand a refund. Some of our members also have a swimming pool, which requires at least 7 days to clean and prepare with special chemicals that do not cost cheap before it can be opened to visitors.
We believe that we are unheard of and have disproportionate operating restrictions compared to other sectors, such as shopping centers, physiotherapy, semi-beauty care, catering, which do not have the same restrictions as we do, which are essentially part of the health sector.