(Natural News) A gym in Krakow, Poland, is rebranding itself as a “church” to stay open amid the country’s lockdown orders. In an Oct. 17 Facebook post by its manager Marta Jamróz, Atlantic Sports Fitness announced that “a religious congregation of members [is] starting today at … the ‘Church of the Healthy Body.’” Jamroz also dubbed the gym’s trainers as “the elder council” and invited people to join the “special religious services.”
The move by Atlantic Sports Fitness came after new coronavirus restrictions in a tiered “traffic light” system announced Oct. 15 by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Krakow was among the areas in the “red zone” reported by the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper; gyms and swimming pools in red zone areas must close as per the order. However, church gatherings were permitted – as long as there is one person per 75 square feet.
Jamróz wrote in her post that “none … wanted to believe” the new restrictions, and expressed concern for people’s health and gym employees’ jobs if the business closed. She said that Atlantic Sports Fitness followed “everything according to the law.”
She lamented in the Facebook post: “If someone doesn’t want to come to the club, they don’t have to! So why … close places where people care about the health and condition and follow all sanitary rules? We are not only fighting for health! We are now fighting for survival! About our jobs!”
Atlantic Sports Fitness did not immediately respond to Business Insider‘s request for comment on whether it has been allowed to reopen under the apparent rebrand. A subsequent Facebook post by Jamróz dated Oct. 20 extended apologies to “all people including customers” at the gym inconvenienced by authorities “writing down and questioning.” The post expressed hope toward “the change of government decisions regarding the overall closure of fitness clubs and [gyms]. (Related: It’s not just Pelosi and Salongate: Government GYMS have also been open for months while private sector gyms were forced to close.)
Restrictions following a spike in coronavirus infections in Poland prompted Atlantic Sports Fitness’ rebrand
The new rules announced by Morawiecki came in response to a surge of coronavirus cases in Poland. The number of new cases in the country shot up during the fall season; daily new cases during the summer had never gone beyond 1,000.
In September, Reuters reported that the Polish Ministry of Health attributed the rise of cases to increased direct contact between people following the loosening of health orders implemented earlier. “There are no big outbreaks. These are many fragmented outbreaks … the result of increased international contacts,” a quote by the health ministry said.
Many Poles have begun to disregard mask-wearing ever since movement orders in the country to limit the spread of COVID-19 were lifted in May. Poland was initially successful in containing the outbreak, but infections resurged as more people traveled for holidays and attended weddings. The government is trying to avoid another national lockdown due to its potential impact on the economy.
Based on data from Johns Hopkins University, Poland has a COVID-19 caseload of 214,686 with 4,019 fatalities and 102,204 recoveries.
Going to the gym puts you at a high risk of contracting the coronavirus
Some coronavirus outbreaks in other countries have been linked to gyms, such as one indoor cycling studio in Canada. The studio, located in the city of Hamilton in Ontario, became ground zero for a “super-spreader event” where more than 70 people contracted the virus.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health at the city of Hamilton’s public health services office, said: “Gyms are a higher risk place because of the fact generally people are taking off their masks, breathing at a higher rate and more deeply, and especially in classes where there’s coaching going on, that tends to be a louder tone to speak over music.”
Dr. Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane University in Louisiana, told Business Insider in May 2020 that going to the gym carries a medium to high risk. She exhorted gym-goers to wear a mask when possible, sanitize equipment before and after each use and strictly observe physical distancing.
Because of the infection risk associated with gym sessions, outdoor exercise paired with physical distancing is a suggested alternative.
Find out more about how gyms and other establishments are faring amid the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.