Open Letter to Latvian Government

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Signed by the leading sports clubs in Latvia

Regarding the restrictions on the activities of sports clubs

Sports clubs are extremely disappointed with the decision taken by the Government to ban indoor sports training (classes) in sports clubs, supplementing the Cabinet of Ministers regulations no. 360 “Epidemiological safety measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 infection” (hereinafter – the Regulations) with Clause 31.1, which provides: “From 17 October 2020 to 6 November 2020, sports training (classes) shall be organized outdoors, individually or remotely. Changing rooms are not used when organizing group sports trainings (classes) outdoors. The mentioned restriction does not apply to the Latvian adult national team, Latvian Olympic team and Latvian Paralympic team athletes, as well as team sports games of the highest league team sports training for adults ”(hereinafter – the Restriction).

We would like to draw attention to the fact that training in sports clubs is not a team sport with the constant contact. Group classes in sports clubs are organized by prior appointment or registration, under the guidance and supervision of the coach, the capacity of the gym is reduced to cover a distance of 2 meters, used equipment is disinfected before and after each training, training mat is disinfected before and after each training, in many in sports clubs as a mandatory requirement is a personal towel to be placed on a mat to have even less contact with the equipment.

Since the sports clubs have resumed their activities after the first outbreak of Covid-19, no official information has been received from the responsible Latvian authorities that any of the sports clubs have been affected by cases of Covid-19 or if members were suspected of being infected with the Covid-19 virus.

From the opening of sports clubs since the first Covid-19 outbreak, sports clubs have taken all precautionary measures to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 virus and have invested extensive work, resources and finances to provide a safe environment for sports clubs for its visitors and staff. Guidelines and world-renowned measures: including, but not limited to, compliance with a physical distance of 2 meters. Classrooms being marked with 2-meter markings, ensuring a distance of 2 meters between participants, reduced number of people in the gym, disinfection of mats and other equipment before and after use, use of your own training towel to reduce contact, significantly increased hygiene and disinfection procedures, hand and surface disinfectants are provided, including soap and paper towels, non-contact access and a wide range of information. We have ensured that employees and club members wear masks while on the premises of sports clubs, at the time when not exercising. Group trainers not only show exercises, lead the lesson, but also follow the observance of all necessary norms. Unlike many industries, such as general retail, we are actively pursuing all of these restrictions. The actual circumstances clearly show that our safety protocols are working and that the gym is a safe place to work and a safe place to train.

Based on the results of the research presented below, sports clubs are safe and mostly not the biggest point of infection.

Recent research suggests that gyms have a major impact on people’s physical and mental well-being. The survey reveals that 90% of participants are satisfied with the measures and controls in place; 80% of the gym is their only or main type of activity / exercise; and more than 85% believe that gyms are important for their mental well-being and should remain open in the event of tighter blockages.

From 1 May to 6 August 2020, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) worldwide carefully checked and compared the registration data of gym club visitors (number of gym visits) from several fitness options, such as Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness , Life Time and Orangetheory. After nearly 50 million registrations during this three-month period, the study found that a nominal 0.0023 percent was positive for COVID-19. Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place in gyms across the country, and there is no evidence that the positive cases have occurred in the gyms themselves.

After analyzing millions of member check-in data across 2,873 gyms, sports clubs and boutique fitness centers over the course of three months, The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and MXM, a technology and knowledge transfer company specializing in member tracking within the fitness industry, conclusively found that fitness facilities are safe and are not contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

Scotland, faced with an increase in Covid-19 infections, the government carefully considered the facts and chose to leave gyms and fitness centers open, explaining this in terms of maintaining the health benefits they provide to society and the very low risk of virus transmission.

We believe that this was the right thing to do to balance the right of citizens to health (a healthy lifestyle) with the introduction of continuous preventive measures against the spread of the virus.

We would like to emphasize that the base of the sports club and fitness industry is people and business, which in 2019 had a turnover of 25 million EURO in Latvia, from which  5.3 million are VAT payments to the state budget. The number of employees paid is more than 1,500, for whom all taxes could be paid if the activity were not restricted. We serve a total of 125,000 customers, which is almost 10% of the total population of Latvia. We are responsible for our actions!

Unfortunately, due to the Restrictions adopted by the Government, countless employees who work as group coaches will lose their jobs in sports clubs, because the economic activity of sports clubs is significantly limited.

In addition, please provide clarification and support on how the sports industry, which offers group session subscriptions, will respond to customer requests for a refund for group session subscriptions due to the interruption of group training, which is one of the basic services (expected loss for October closing days). As unearned profit accounts for about 40% of subscription revenue in October). How to pay rent for premises, given that since the Government’s decision to ban indoor group classes, many regular customers apply to the sports club to terminate the subscription / contract because it is not possible to provide the service in its previous amount and form, including group lessons? From what means to pay downtime allowance to group trainers for the period from 17.10.2020 to 06.11.2020?

In conclusion, we call on the responsible authorities to seriously review and lift the adopted Restriction on theindoor group activities in sports clubs, taking into account the above facts and description. In the event that the responsible State authorities decide to reject the proposal to lift the Restriction on the organization and conduct of indoor group activities and restrict the sports activities of the population, the State and the responsible authorities will have a clear negative impact on the health of the population. We, as the sports industry, strongly disagree that sport can be one of the risk sectors that contribute to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and we would like to point out that sport and exercise are part of the solution to improving public health and limiting the Covid-19 virus spread.

In view of the above, we invite you to amend Clause 31.1 of the Regulations, worded as follows: “From October 17, 2020 to November 6, 2020, sports training (classes) are organized indoors without physical contact between participants, in accordance with Article 31 of these Regulations. the requirements set out in paragraph 1, outdoors, individually or remotely. Changing rooms are not used when organizing group sports trainings (classes) outdoors. The mentioned restriction does not apply to the Latvian adult national team, Latvian Olympic team and Latvian Paralympic team athletes, as well as team sports games of the highest league team sports training for adults. ”

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