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Desperate to reopen, Ecuador’s gyms propose new operating rules to health officials

Organizations representing Ecuador gym owners say that as many as 25 percent of the country’s workout facilities will be out of business when operating restrictions are lifted. With no end in sight for Covid-19 health emergency restrictions, they say the percentage could go even higher.

Hundreds of gyms across Ecuador continue to stand idle.

Among all of the country’s businesses, gyms, bars and night clubs are considered the highest-risk environments for the spread of the Covid-19 virus. “These are enclosed spaces where people interact in close proximity,” says Gustavo Quinde, an epidemiologist for the health ministry. “In the case of gyms, there is also the factor of extreme physical exertion, which means respiratory particles are more widely dispersed.”

Currently, gyms are not allowed to reopen until local emergency restrictions are lowered to green light status, which may be weeks away, according to the National Emergency Operations Committee. According to health officials, Guayaquil could go green in early July but other cities, including Quito, Cuenca, Manta and Santa Domingo are still seeing increases in Covid cases.

The Exercise Sites Guild of Guayaquil says that more than 2,000 gyms in Guayas Province are currently closed, leaving 20,000 workers unemployed. The Guild’s counterpart in Quito offers similar numbers and says it has heard from many members that they do not plan to reopen.

Gym owners are proposing new rules they say will make their facilities safer and are asking the national and local COE’s to reconsider current restrictions. Jorge Ruiz, president of the Guayaquil Guild is hoping for a decision by the end of June. “The quarantine is killing us and I’m not talking simply about the businesses,” he says. “Physical activity is important for everyone but for many participants it is critical for their health. Yes, there is a health concern for preventing the virus but there is another concern for the health of gym members.”

Ruiz says there are more than 700,000 registered gym members In Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca. “And, If you include the rest of the country, the number is well over one million.”

The Guayaquil and Quito guilds are proposing 30 new rules they hope will allow gyms to reopen. Among them are the establishment of an appointment system that would reduce crowding at peak periods, new spacing requirement for exercise stations and a temporary prohibition of members who are pregnant, suffer from chronic diseases or who are over 60.

“At this point we are waiting for a decision and hope it comes soon,” says Ruiz. “The health of many Ecuadorians depend on it.”