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Industry has called for information on gym infections – why are the readings hidden? “No restrictions are imposed based on data” – Turku Region

In the sports sector, it is not understood why any assessment of the functioning of less severe restrictions has been made before they were tightened.

Committee on Constitutional Affairs has completed its opinion on the clarifications planned by the government to section 58 g of the Communicable Diseases Act. They would allow for the temporary closure of private gyms.

For sports practitioners, this is the last nail in the coffin where they have landed for about a year, as no compensation model for the industry is still in place.

Operators feel that all decisions in the field of sports have been made unjustifiably. The decisions have affected about 2,000 fitness centers with nearly a million clients – or were before the restrictions.

– The process of changing the infectious disease law was predicted and no impact assessments were made at all. The actors were also not consulted, which is completely outrageous, the CEO of Kuntokeskus Liikku Oy, which owns 34 fitness centers all over Finland, Johanna Riihijärvi says.

Johanna Riihijärvi, CEO of Fitness Center Liikku, sees bouncing in the sports industry as a political game in which something is fussy about sight instead of really tackling bad sources of infection.­

With the amendment, he refers in particular to the 58 g section, as a result of which the halls have had to limit the number of visitors to 10 at a time.

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– Data on infections from gyms are not collected in Finland at all. Thus, the benefits of foreclosure are not known or statistic, and restrictions are not defined based on data. Here, it is decided on the basis of images and mutations what gyms are and what happens in them, Riihijärvi says.

In 2020, the exercise halls had about 1.6 million visits, eight possible exposures and zero infection. This is the case in hundreds of other halls.

– Since the pandemic started, we have had zero infections. We can be caught, but still not react to worse sources of infection, Turku fitness center Studio One owner Mikko Äikäs says.

Evening News has seen correspondence between the actors of the Association of Fitness and Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The association has repeatedly asked for justification for the high risk of infection classification, made statements, and presented several international studies on how few infections have come from gyms.

One of STM’s responses states that in Helsinki, 84 probable infections in gyms have been traced throughout the epidemic (situation on 19 February). During that time, the halls of the market leader Elixia in Helsinki alone had more than a million customer visits, not to mention all the players in the area. After that, the number of infections increased slightly, but relative to all visits, there is talk of per mille.

– Virus border control has been inferior all the time, and has been allowed to come from abroad without testing. In addition, it feels lewd that we have a gym closed, and behind the wall a big supermarket spends mammoth days, Riihijärvi says.

STM on expressed that the closure of premises is a last resort if other measures are not sufficient. However, the adequacy of the activities in the gyms has never been transparently assessed, or at least not informed, despite requests.

For example, between sections 58 d (adequate safety intervals and contact of less than 15 minutes) and 58 g (max. 10 people in the customer room) no assessment was made but they were implemented sequentially.

– 58 d has still been a reality in the industry for a year now. If the average area of ​​our fitness centers is 1,300 square meters, it is quite clear that it will be realized, Riihijärvi says.

The government is submitted that companies would be compensated if customer premises were ordered to be closed. Reimbursement would be based on the company’s expenses in February 2021. Salary expenses would be reimbursed in full and 70 percent of fixed expenses. Nothing has been decided.

– When the Communicable Diseases Act was drafted, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, I understand, insisted that the compensation model must be ready before it can be introduced. This is not the case, and we do not know whether we will receive compensation and to whom it will come, Riihijärvi says.

In part, there is no previous cost support – if any.

– We applied for cost support from 2 in December. It received an automatic rejection on the wrong grounds, and the processing of the rectification claim has now been extended to 8-10 weeks. So let’s talk about the costs, which are from June last year, Äikäs says.

– If cost aid 3 were to be paid in May, it would also cover the costs of November-December last year, perhaps January-February.

Mikko Äikäs fears that by the time the compensation model is developed, many will already be bankrupt.­

One scenario is that no closure is ordered, but due to mobility restrictions, customers cannot enter the gym. Then there would hardly be any compensation.

Riihijärvi predicts that bankruptcies are coming. Most entrepreneurs are now squirming that seats can be kept open for 10 people, but that’s not a productive business. Co-operation negotiations are slow, so no adjustments have been made with the staff.

– Faith in the future and in trying is waning. There are a lot of individuals in the industry who have built a company around their own passion that bring a lot of good to their area. They now have buffers in the red, and have taken out personal loans. A huge amount of knowledge and passion may soon disappear from this country, he regrets.

In the 1300 square meters, it is easy to keep safety distances.­

The closure will also affect thousands of customers. Among them are those for whom muscle fitness training is a prerequisite for functional ability.

– Immobility has long been a problem in Finland, and its costs are 3.5–7 billion every year. This will cost society later, Riihijärvi says.

– For many, exercise is a breather, so the situation feels unreasonable, Äikäs adds.

Next week is in the dark for entrepreneurs, not to mention the future.

– It was discussed there that next autumn must be good. But that’s how we thought last spring. Faith can be created yourself, because no encouragement is given from above, Äikäs says.

– It seems that political loose points are being collected by closing gyms without justification. One cannot avoid the idea that we are checkers in a political game where one does not think about the whole, Riihijärvi says.

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