The Latvian Health and Fitness Association, which brings together Latvia’s leading sports clubs, calls on the Cabinet of Ministers to reconsider the decision to ban sports activities, differentiating restrictions according to both sports and sports activities, in order not to destroy the sports and fitness industry in Latvia and reduce sports activities, which are also essential for public health, the association informs.

Sports clubs fully support the need to introduce evidence-based restrictions in Latvia to reduce the spread of Covid-19 infection, emphasizes Gints Kuznetsov, head of the Latvian Health and Fitness Association (LVFA). At the same time, he believes that the current restrictions are disproportionate and contradictory, as well as not preventing number of real risks.

Therefore, LVFA has sent a letter to the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Economics, calling for reviewing the restrictions and allowing group classes in sports clubs and centers.

Sports clubs draw the government’s attention to the fact that currently banned training in sports clubs is not a team sport where there is 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 hall is reduced to cover a distance of two 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 and a mat to have even less contact with the equipment. In order to prevent close contact between visitors and employees of sports clubs in the club premises and changing rooms, it is mandatory to use face masks for both visitors and employees in these premises. And, as clubs point out, unlike large retail centers, clubs are small enough for employees to want and be able to control full compliance with this requirement.

“Since the sports clubs have resumed their activities after the first Covid-19 outbreak, 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,” emphasizes Kuznetsov. “Since the opening of sports clubs since the first Covid-19 outbreak, sports clubs have taken all precautionary measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus and have invested considerable work, resources and finances to provide a safe environment for sports clubs and staff, taking into account both national guidelines and globally recognized measures. “

In addition to the positive impact of sports clubs, the public health industry association also emphasizes the industry’s contribution to the Latvian economy, which will be significantly reduced due to restrictions. In 2019, the sports club and fitness industry in Latvia generated a turnover of 25 million euros, which gives 5.3 million euros in VAT payments to the state budget, and employs more than 1,500 people. The industry serves 125,000 customers, which is almost 10% of the total population of Latvia.

“Unfortunately, due to the restrictions adopted by the government, countless employees who are employed as group coaches will lose their jobs in sports clubs, because the economic activity of sports clubs is significantly limited. From what sources to pay them salaries or benefits if government funding for downtime benefits is no longer provided? ” asks the head of the industry association.

The association has also analyzed the world’s experience in order to assess the situation in Latvia in a broader context: enrollment data (number of gym visits) from a number of fitness options, such as Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Life Time and Orangetheory in countries with known levels of infection. After nearly 50 million registrations over this three-month period, the study found that only 0.0023% was nominally positive for Covid-19. ”

In Scotland, on the other hand, in the face of rising Covid-19 infections, the government carefully considered the facts and chose to leave gyms and fitness centers open, explaining the health benefits they provide to society and the very low risk of transmitting the virus, .

LVFA believes that this is the right action to balance the right of citizens to health (healthy lifestyle) and the introduction of continuous preventive measures against the spread of the virus.