Monday, 01 February 2021 11:55

Staff Reporter.

South Africa’s largest health club chain Virgin Active says that a move to adjusted level 3 lockdown restrictions at the end of December 2020, has led to lower usage rates and an increase in member terminations.

The group’s holding company, Brait, said in a note on Monday (1 February), that despite the recent government enforced level 3 lockdown restrictions, its clubs have remained operational since re-opening on 24 August 2020.

It said that Virgin had benefitted from a steady improvement in member engagement, with utilisation rates increasing to 70% in December.

"However, as expected the subsequent level 3 restrictions – which include limiting the number of members in a club – have resulted in lower usage rates, an increase in terminations and lower sales."

Virgin Active South Africa, Brait said, remains cash flow neutral at an operating level, and as at the end of December 2020 has sufficient liquidity to fund its business plan.

Virgin has approximately 138 gyms across the country, and approximately 670,000 members, with around a million total members in eight countries. This figure however, is down from approximately 1.1 million members reported in its most recent annual report, with around 715,000 members in July (2020).

The company said in November that it is likely to take at least 18-24 months to revert to 2019 levels.

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture has gazetted the new guidelines for the sector under the latest adjusted lockdown level 3. The guidelines detail what gyms, fitness centres and other sporting facilities need to have in place to continue operating.

Gyms and fitness centres

  • Gyms and equipment must be clean at all times to prevent the spread of the virus;
  • Cleaning personnel must be active during all operating hours;
  • All equipment – including mats – must be washed after every use;
  • People entering a gym or fitness centre must be wearing a mask – no mask, no entry;
  • Masks may be removed for vigorous exercise, but a distance of two metres must be maintained at all times;
  • Vigorous training equipment must be spaced a minimum of two metres apart;
  • Medium and low-intensity workouts must take place with a minimum distance of 1.5 metres at all times;
  • Studio classes are capped at the most a venue can hold while maintaining a two-metre distance between participants;
  • All social distancing spaces need to be clearly marked;
  • There must be a 30-minute window between sessions to allow for cleaning;
  • Venues must open windows during operating hours to allow for ventilation – or where a ventilation system is used, ensure filters are maintained and replaced regularly;
  • Saunas and steam rooms must be closed.

For exercise taking place outdoors, previous regulations have already stated that masks need to be worn in public places, unless doing vigorous exercise.

The same regulation of two metres distance between people in these spaces applies.