This article was originally published on 10 May 2021 and updated to reflect the Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) measures announced on 10 June 2021.
As of 8 May 2021, Singapore has moved back to Phase 2 with stricter safe management measures (SMM). Within a short 4-day timespan from the official announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on 4 May 2021 to the start of the stricter SMM on 8 May 2021, businesses have to react rapidly to the new guidelines. Some of the biggest “losers” in the round of Phase 2 are gyms and indoor fitness studios which must be shut down.
For affected gyms and indoor fitness studios, there was much confusion and uncertainty. While the news of the closure broke on 4 May 2021, Sport Singapore only released their first press release on 6 May 2021 on the guidelines on the closure of gyms and indoor fitness studios, with a second update on 7 May 2021 that stated that low intensity activities may continue. With such a short lead time and rapid changes in the government’s position, it is a stressful period to be a gym or indoor fitness studio owner.
Additionally, further tightening of the safe management measures were announced on 14 May 2021 which affected the whole of Singapore and further changes to operating indoor gyms and studios. The closure and stricter safe management measures will apply from 16 May to 13 June 2021.
Update: As of 10 June, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has announced the easing to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) with two phases: from 14 June 2021 to 20 June 2021 and from 21 June 2021 onwards. While low-intensity activities are allowed to continue for another week, high-intensity activities will only resume from 21 June 2021 onwards.
Here’s what is actually allowed and not allowed during this closure of gyms and indoor fitness studios, according to the latest Sport Singapore’s press release (updated 10 June 2021) and FAQ (updated 11 June 2021).
Low Intensity Sport And Physical Activities Are Allowed To Continue
Based on the latest clarifications, indoor gyms and fitness/exercise/dance studios are allowed to continue operations if they only offer “low intensity physical activities, sport and exercises where all participants and instructors are wearing masks at all times, and where there is no sharing of any common equipment”
Low intensity sport and physical activities are activities that can be done with mask on at all times. Examples cited by Sport Singapore include Yoga, Pilates, stretching exercises, Tai Chi, etc.
Weight, strength or resistance training of any form cannot be offered as these are strenuous activities. This applies even for one-on-one sessions.
From 14 June to 20 June 2021: Low intensity activities are allowed to continue.
From 21 June 2021 onwards: High intensity activities will be allowed to resume.
Facilities That Continue To Be Open Must Adhere To The Stricter Safe Management Measures (SMM)
The stricter safe management measures apply to all sports, physical exercises and activities and public and private sports and recreational facilities. Other indoor facilities similar to gym and studio settings that remain in operation are also to modify their activities to be in line with the more stringent SMM.
These measures include:
- All participants including instructors and staff must be properly masked at all times, including when performing the physical activity.
- Staggered class start times (a minimum of 15 mins between classes) to prevent intermingling and mixing of participants before and after class. The room has to be ventilated after the end of each class. Participants must leave the premises immediately after class or if they have exceeded a two-hour period.
- Maximum number of persons allowed is based on
10 sqm per personaccording to the gross floor area of the facility, up to a maximum of 50 persons. This is increased to 16 sqm per person, as of 16 May to 13 June 2021. The maximum of 50 persons remains the same.
- Group activities cannot be more than
5 persons. This is reduced to 2 persons, as of 16 May to 13 June 2021.
- For indoor activities (only low intensity activities are allowed), multiple groups of 2 are allowed, up to 30 participants or the capacity limit of the venue, whichever is lower. Each group must maintain the safe distance of 3m apart from others.
- For low intensity outdoor activities, multiple groups of 2 are allowed, up to 30 participants or the capacity limit of the venue, whichever is lower. Each group must maintain the safe distance of 3m apart from others.
- For high intensity outdoor activities where masks are removed, only two persons (including the instructor/ coach) is allowed and there cannot be multiple groups of 2. Essentially, this will be a one-on-one training activity.
- At least 2 metres (2 arms-length) distance between individuals must be maintained when exercising and at least 3 metres (3 arms-length) between different groups. The groups are not allowed to mingle.
- For low intensity activities (indoors and outdoors), Instructors are not counted towards the group of twos, but they are counted toward the venue capacity limit. E.g. a single instructor can teach multiple groups of 2 persons up to 30 participants, but safe distance between groups must be maintained and total number of people cannot exceed the allowed venue capacity.
For details, please refer to Sport Singapore’s guidelines here.
From 14 June to 20 June 2021:
- The maximum number of people allowed indoors remain at 50 pax but more people may be allowed based on gross floor area of the facility which is changed to 10 sqm per pax. Staff are not counted towards the facility limit.
- Group sizes are increased to 5 pax (including instructor). Multiple groups of 5 are allowed, up to 30 pax for low intensity activities, both indoors and outdoors. Groups must maintain 3m apart.
- For outdoor high intensity activities (mask-off), only 1 group of 5 pax (including instructor) is allowed.
From 21 June 2021 onwards:
- Facility capacity remains the same as from 14 June. Maximum capacity remains at 50 pax with a facility density of 10 sqm per pax. Staff are not counted to the limit.
- All Indoor and outdoor activities (high and low intensity, mask-on and mask-off) are allowed in groups of 5 pax (including instructor). Multiple groups of 5 are allowed, up to 30 pax. Groups must maintain 3m apart.
Essentially all gyms and studios can resume normal operations from 21 June 2021 but in groups of 5, up to 30 pax including the instructor.
Common Equipment Allowed From 21 June 2021
In Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), common equipment such as punching pads, bags, dummies, use of boxing ring, etc, are not allowed to be used due to the high risk of fomite transmission (or spreading through contaminated surfaces).
Facilities are also not allowed to provide equipment for any weight, strength or resistance training as these are associated with strenuous activities that are not allowed during this period.
For example, yoga and pilates studios that continue to offer low-intensity stretch classes (which must be done with a mask on) cannot provide the use of common exercise mats that are shared.
From 21 June 2021 onwards: Common equipment usage is allowed to resume but the equipment should be wiped down / sanitised before passing on for use by the next user. This includes equipment such as weights and balls.
Rehabilitative Therapy May Use Common Equipment (With Conditions)
For businesses that wish to provide rehabilitative therapy that requires the use of common equipment such as the reformer must do this as their sole activity during this period. This means that the business cannot provide group classes and only focus on rehabilitative therapy.
The rehabilitative treatment must be on a one-on-one appointment basis and the business must keep a record of patient/client case file including the reasons for the required therapy. There can be multiple therapists each with one patient client without intermingling. Both therapist and patient/client must wear their mask at all times.
From 21 June 2021 onwards: Restrictions on common equipment usage will be rescinded. This means that gyms and studios can resume their normal operations with regards to rehabilitative therapy.
Coaches And Instructors Are Allowed To Use The Studio To Film Online Classes
Gyms and studios that wish to offer online classes can use the gym or studio premises to produce the digital content for their online classes. Instructors and coaches are allowed to use the premises subject to the prevailing safe management measures (SMM).
To do so, gyms and studios will have to notify Sport Singapore beforehand at [email protected] to confirm adherence to prevailing SMMs for digital content production. There cannot be other activities held at the premises when digital content production is taking place.
Staff are also allowed to enter the premises for administrative tasks, including the filming of online classes. These are subject to the prevailing SMM.
Sport Singapore has also indicated that there would be inspections conducted to ensure adherence to the SMMs.
High Intensity Activities Can Take Place In Settings That Are Not Similar To Indoor Gyms/ Studios
High intensity activities such as martial arts and combat sports are allowed to continue if they are held in settings that are not similar to indoor gyms/ studios. For example, if they are held outdoors or in large halls.
However, if they are conducted in settings similar to indoor gyms and studios, the activities need to be modified to be low intensity such that mask-wearing continues and no common equipment (e.g. punching pads, bags, etc) is used. The stricter safe management measures and the reduced capacity also apply.
Operators will have to modify their activities to minimise contact as much as possible. Total grappling time cannot be longer than 15 mins per session. Sessions should also be held based on cohorting (same class time, same participants, same venue, etc) to limit the extent of any contact tracing.
These applies to activities such as TKD, MMA, Muay Thai, BJJ, Fencing, Judo, Boxing and other similar activities.
From 21 June 2021 onwards: High intensity activities will be allowed to resume in indoor gyms and studios.
Sports Activities Such As Swimming And Golf Are Allowed To Continue
Swimming is allowed to continue in outdoor pools. It must be done individually or in groups of not more than 2 persons. This means that group swimming classes are not allowed but it is possible to swim with one other person.
Golfing is allowed for a 4-ball flight in two groups of 2 (with masks on) and keeping a 3 metre distance between the two groups at all times. Only a 2-ball flight is allowed if masks are unable to be worn throughout.
Badminton, basketball and table tennis (and other similar sports) are allowed to continue in groups of no more than 2 person (i.e. 1v1). Masks must be worn at all times when playing sports indoors. Competitive sports are advised to be suspended for indoor locations due to its high intensity nature. If it is held outdoors, masks may be taken off during strenuous activity outdoor, in groups of no more than 2 persons.
From 14 June to 20 June 2021: Groups of up to 5 pax will be allowed to play together with masks worn all the time.
From 21 June 2021 onwards: Groups of up to 5 pax will be allowed to play together with or without masks.
Difference Between Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) And Phase 3 (Heightened Alert)
Easing To Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) And Into The New Normal
To many gym and studio owners, the restrictions and closure implemented during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) was confusing and upsetting. Some activities and facilities are allowed to continue while others are not. While the closures and activity restrictions was tough for the industry as a whole, the SMMs did achieve what they set out to do: stem the surge of COVID-19 cases.
While we welcome the easing of measures of Phase 3 (Heightened Alert), it is not a time to be complacent. The sudden nature of the closures is a stark reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and may even become endemic.
While the government has announced the eventual implementation of regular Fast & Easy Testing (FET), this is not a condition for indoor gyms and studios to resume operations on 21 June. However, instructors and staff who come into contact with unmasked users are highly encouraged to undergo FET when it is rolled out.
For affected business owners, the Sports Resilience Package has been announced to support the sport industry, as well as the extension of Jobs Support Scheme and the introduction of the Rental Support Scheme. Business owners may also can email the Sport Singapore QSM for any clarification.
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