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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Colin GrantCEO, Pure Group

Meticulous tracing and reporting of cases show, time and time again, that fitness centres and yoga studios are some of the safest places on the planet

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 3
Colin Grant is chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators / photo: © Ian tse
Colin Grant is chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators / photo: © Ian tse
Find ways to come together and flourish. Even when you’re a group of competitors, you can make it work for everyone when you all listen with respect

Background
In early March, a small facility in Hong Kong – Ursus Fitness – became one of the only gyms in the world to be the centre of a COVID-19 cluster, with more than 150 people, including customers, staff and their close contacts, linked to the outbreak. Here we give the background to the situation and talk to Colin Grant, CEO of Pure Group and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators about how the sector responded.

Gyms in Hong Kong had only reopened weeks before – on 18 February – with some enforcing mask-wearing as a way to control COVID-19. Members were also obliged to use a ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ tracing app each time they entered the gym and fitness classes in Hong Kong had various limits imposed, from numbers to mask wearing and distancing.

Timeline of the outbreak
Before the Ursus outbreak, major operators in Hong Kong reported they were remaining COVID-free by following strict protocols.

In response to the Ursus cluster, the government made mask-wearing mandatory in gyms (from Thursday 11 March) and on Friday 12 March – in a battle to keep gyms open – authorities ordered all 50,000 fitness industry workers in Hong Kong to undergo mandatory testing within two days (by 14 March 2021).

Everyone in Hong Kong’s gyms must now wear a mask, except when eating, drinking and showering – a discipline already adopted in some other countries – it’s also mandatory for staff to wear masks at all times.

In common with many countries, the Hong Kong government is also now mandating partitions and the spacing of equipment at 1.5m.

Some fitness centres temporarily banned members and PTs who frequent more than one gym, while others stocked up on rapid test kits to safeguard customers.

Many closed temporarily for deep cleaning and to get employees screened.

The rapid response brought the Ursus cluster under control very quickly and non-affected gyms were allowed to stay open throughout.

Establishing the cause
In a bid to establish the cause of the outbreak, a site visit was carried out at Ursus on 22 March between various departments of government, led by Hong Kong’s leading microbiologist, Yuen-Kwok yung and Ronald Lam, controller of The Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong.

After consulting with engineers from the electrical and mechanical services department, Professor Yuen concluded that there had been insufficient fresh air supply within the Ursus Fitness gym to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He said the system had no fresh air exhaust which made it impossible to dilute the viral air particles.

The outbreak has shaken but united the Hong Kong fitness sector and HCM spoke to Colin Grant, CEO of Pure Group and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators about the impact of the outbreak and what the wider health and fitness community can learn from this incident, as countries around the world prepare to come out of lockdown.

How did the HK fitness industry swing into action to contain the Ursus cluster?
We contact-traced very effectively, and quickly introduced additional hygiene, safety and distancing measures. We also formed alliances to bring unity and shared learnings to an unprecedented situation, so that we could work together and protect the community and the industry.

How did the government handle the crisis?
We’ve been in close contact with the government all along – particularly the Home Affairs Bureau, which links with the Centre for Health Protection – to ensure we have all necessary information about COVID-19 cases and regulations, and to build trust that our locations are some of the safest places possible during the pandemic.

The government has adopted a suppress and lift strategy to manage the ebb and flow of COVID-19 numbers and has adjusted its industry prioritisation according to ongoing learnings.

For example, while we were coupled with bars and nightclubs during the first phases of lockdown, once it became clear that there were no secondary infections in gyms and yoga studios, and contact tracing and safety measures were firmly in place, we were decoupled from them and permitted to remain open longer and re-open earlier.

You explained that the government is behind the industry – how has this come about?
Through the constant communication and proven adherence to standards mentioned above. The strategy of our alliance – the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators (HKAPFWO) – has always been to maintain an open and honest dialogue with key government officials. I believe this has paid off.

Tell us about the HKAPFWO
The HKAPFWO was started to unite a diverse range of our industry’s operators under a common mission to drive safety and communicate regularly with the government.

Alliance members range from big box operators to boutiques, from large chains to single-clubs and from group fitness and personal training to physiotherapy.

This has been a very positive experience of sharing and improving together and shows the merits of unity in a crisis.

What learnings do you have to share from this experience?
Listen to others and find ways to come together and flourish – even when you’re a group of competitors, you can make it work for everyone when you all listen with respect.

How can the industry protect itself from rogue operators?
Our alliance has recently collaborated with two other industry alliances to initiate a first-of-its kind COVID-19 safety guideline and operator endorsement scheme for Hong Kong’s fitness and wellness industry – called SafeFit100.

This initiative, with its own independent steering committee, sets out a stringent list of safety, hygiene, distancing, capacity and air-flow guidelines which all operators must adhere to in order to be endorsed.

Operators can apply for endorsement via www.SafeFit100.com, and once approved they will receive their official endorsement notice and other materials to show that they’re meeting the highest standards – even going above and beyond government regulations – and have been endorsed by SafeFit100.

This initiative is a clear representation of our intention to continually enhance and protect our industry and our community.

News of the Ursus cluster spread around the world in a matter of hours – how can the sector unite to manage these kinds of situations?
Unite is the key word. The alliances, the initiatives (like SafeFit100) and the meticulous tracing and reporting of cases that show, time and time again, that fitness centres and yoga studios are some of the safest places on the planet when stringent standards are met. We must collectively drive awareness of these facts. Let them be our legacy and guide our future.

UV Technology is used by Pure Group to sterlise phones for use in the gym / photo: PURE GROUP
UV Technology is used by Pure Group to sterlise phones for use in the gym / photo: PURE GROUP
Measures including safeguard screens, testing of gym workers and increased cleaning have been introduced / photo: Pure Group
Measures including safeguard screens, testing of gym workers and increased cleaning have been introduced / photo: Pure Group
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/143970_906731.jpg
The CEO of Pure Group talks about beating Hong Kong’s COVID cluster
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Meticulous tracing and reporting of cases show, time and time again, that fitness centres and yoga studios are some of the safest places on the planet
HCM Magazine
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Locations worldwide,
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21-24 Sep 2021
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features

HCM People: Colin GrantCEO, Pure Group

Meticulous tracing and reporting of cases show, time and time again, that fitness centres and yoga studios are some of the safest places on the planet

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 3
Colin Grant is chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators / photo: © Ian tse
Colin Grant is chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators / photo: © Ian tse
Find ways to come together and flourish. Even when you’re a group of competitors, you can make it work for everyone when you all listen with respect

Background
In early March, a small facility in Hong Kong – Ursus Fitness – became one of the only gyms in the world to be the centre of a COVID-19 cluster, with more than 150 people, including customers, staff and their close contacts, linked to the outbreak. Here we give the background to the situation and talk to Colin Grant, CEO of Pure Group and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators about how the sector responded.

Gyms in Hong Kong had only reopened weeks before – on 18 February – with some enforcing mask-wearing as a way to control COVID-19. Members were also obliged to use a ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ tracing app each time they entered the gym and fitness classes in Hong Kong had various limits imposed, from numbers to mask wearing and distancing.

Timeline of the outbreak
Before the Ursus outbreak, major operators in Hong Kong reported they were remaining COVID-free by following strict protocols.

In response to the Ursus cluster, the government made mask-wearing mandatory in gyms (from Thursday 11 March) and on Friday 12 March – in a battle to keep gyms open – authorities ordered all 50,000 fitness industry workers in Hong Kong to undergo mandatory testing within two days (by 14 March 2021).

Everyone in Hong Kong’s gyms must now wear a mask, except when eating, drinking and showering – a discipline already adopted in some other countries – it’s also mandatory for staff to wear masks at all times.

In common with many countries, the Hong Kong government is also now mandating partitions and the spacing of equipment at 1.5m.

Some fitness centres temporarily banned members and PTs who frequent more than one gym, while others stocked up on rapid test kits to safeguard customers.

Many closed temporarily for deep cleaning and to get employees screened.

The rapid response brought the Ursus cluster under control very quickly and non-affected gyms were allowed to stay open throughout.

Establishing the cause
In a bid to establish the cause of the outbreak, a site visit was carried out at Ursus on 22 March between various departments of government, led by Hong Kong’s leading microbiologist, Yuen-Kwok yung and Ronald Lam, controller of The Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong.

After consulting with engineers from the electrical and mechanical services department, Professor Yuen concluded that there had been insufficient fresh air supply within the Ursus Fitness gym to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He said the system had no fresh air exhaust which made it impossible to dilute the viral air particles.

The outbreak has shaken but united the Hong Kong fitness sector and HCM spoke to Colin Grant, CEO of Pure Group and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators about the impact of the outbreak and what the wider health and fitness community can learn from this incident, as countries around the world prepare to come out of lockdown.

How did the HK fitness industry swing into action to contain the Ursus cluster?
We contact-traced very effectively, and quickly introduced additional hygiene, safety and distancing measures. We also formed alliances to bring unity and shared learnings to an unprecedented situation, so that we could work together and protect the community and the industry.

How did the government handle the crisis?
We’ve been in close contact with the government all along – particularly the Home Affairs Bureau, which links with the Centre for Health Protection – to ensure we have all necessary information about COVID-19 cases and regulations, and to build trust that our locations are some of the safest places possible during the pandemic.

The government has adopted a suppress and lift strategy to manage the ebb and flow of COVID-19 numbers and has adjusted its industry prioritisation according to ongoing learnings.

For example, while we were coupled with bars and nightclubs during the first phases of lockdown, once it became clear that there were no secondary infections in gyms and yoga studios, and contact tracing and safety measures were firmly in place, we were decoupled from them and permitted to remain open longer and re-open earlier.

You explained that the government is behind the industry – how has this come about?
Through the constant communication and proven adherence to standards mentioned above. The strategy of our alliance – the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators (HKAPFWO) – has always been to maintain an open and honest dialogue with key government officials. I believe this has paid off.

Tell us about the HKAPFWO
The HKAPFWO was started to unite a diverse range of our industry’s operators under a common mission to drive safety and communicate regularly with the government.

Alliance members range from big box operators to boutiques, from large chains to single-clubs and from group fitness and personal training to physiotherapy.

This has been a very positive experience of sharing and improving together and shows the merits of unity in a crisis.

What learnings do you have to share from this experience?
Listen to others and find ways to come together and flourish – even when you’re a group of competitors, you can make it work for everyone when you all listen with respect.

How can the industry protect itself from rogue operators?
Our alliance has recently collaborated with two other industry alliances to initiate a first-of-its kind COVID-19 safety guideline and operator endorsement scheme for Hong Kong’s fitness and wellness industry – called SafeFit100.

This initiative, with its own independent steering committee, sets out a stringent list of safety, hygiene, distancing, capacity and air-flow guidelines which all operators must adhere to in order to be endorsed.

Operators can apply for endorsement via www.SafeFit100.com, and once approved they will receive their official endorsement notice and other materials to show that they’re meeting the highest standards – even going above and beyond government regulations – and have been endorsed by SafeFit100.

This initiative is a clear representation of our intention to continually enhance and protect our industry and our community.

News of the Ursus cluster spread around the world in a matter of hours – how can the sector unite to manage these kinds of situations?
Unite is the key word. The alliances, the initiatives (like SafeFit100) and the meticulous tracing and reporting of cases that show, time and time again, that fitness centres and yoga studios are some of the safest places on the planet when stringent standards are met. We must collectively drive awareness of these facts. Let them be our legacy and guide our future.

UV Technology is used by Pure Group to sterlise phones for use in the gym / photo: PURE GROUP
UV Technology is used by Pure Group to sterlise phones for use in the gym / photo: PURE GROUP
Measures including safeguard screens, testing of gym workers and increased cleaning have been introduced / photo: Pure Group
Measures including safeguard screens, testing of gym workers and increased cleaning have been introduced / photo: Pure Group
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/143970_906731.jpg
The CEO of Pure Group talks about beating Hong Kong’s COVID cluster
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The FIT Summit has unveiled the final shortlists for the 2021 Fitness & Wellness Awards ...
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Basic-Fit lost 10 per cent of its members during Q1 2021, as 94 per cent ...
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Latest News
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has moved its Annual International Convention & ...
Latest News
Undertaking regular physical activity could cut the risk of dying from infectious diseases – such ...
Latest News
PureGym saw its group-wide revenue decline by £177m during 2020, as it lost 37 per ...
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Outdoor workouts have become increasingly popular over the past year, as pandemic lockdowns – and ...
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: iFit: your readymade omnichannel fitness solution
With gyms and leisure centres in England reopened, and the rest of the UK due to shortly follow suit, the time for being theoretical is over.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Engaging smart technology helps gyms and fitness professionals get their leading role back
Safety, quality of service, and member engagement are key in order to offer a unique fitness experience that will boost the re-start.
Company profiles
Company profile: Merrithew™ - Leaders in Mindful Movement™
Merrithew™ enriches the lives of others with responsible exercise modalities and innovative, multidisciplinary fitness offerings ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Hussle
Hussle exists for two reasons: To increase opportunities for people to engage in physical activity ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Fisikal
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Property & Tenders
Hillingdon
Hillingdon Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
12 Jun 2021
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
13-14 Jun 2021
Online,
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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