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Amid confusion and frustration over Covid-19 rules, SportSG sets aside S$18m to support gyms and fitness studios

SINGAPORE — Sport Singapore (SportSG) has set aside up to S$18 million to tide over businesses and freelancers affected by the tightened Covid-19 control measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Amid confusion and frustration over Covid-19 rules, SportSG sets aside S$18m to support gyms and fitness studios

Mr Marc Torel, owner of Platinum Fitness SG, has decided to keep his gym closed from May 8 to 30, 2021.

  • SportSG is doling out up to S$18 million to help businesses in the sports and fitness industry defray operating costs
  • It will also provide eligible gyms and fitness studios with a one-time payout ranging from S$5,000 to S$100,000
  • Eligible freelancers who have lost half their income during this period may apply for a cash payout of S$400
  • Various gym and studio owners expressed both relief and scepticism at the new incentives
  • Regulatory changes in recent days have caused some confusion and frustration among them

 

SINGAPORE — Sport Singapore (SportSG) has set aside up to S$18 million to tide over businesses and freelancers affected by the tightened Covid-19 control measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The news came after a number of regulatory changes were made in the past few days, causing some confusion and frustration, particularly among Muay Thai gyms as well as yoga and pilates studios.

They were initially told to close, then found out the next day that they were allowed to open from May 8 to 30.

The latest set of measures state that they may open if they offer low-intensity activities where participants and instructors wear face masks at all times and the facility cannot provide common equipment or props to be used, among other safety rules.

The same goes for indoor public and private gyms as well as fitness, exercise or dance studios that initially had to close.

In a media release on Tuesday, the national sports governing body said that the S$18 million fund can help businesses defray operating costs and support affected self-employed persons during this period.

Out of this amount, a S$7.7 million grant will be provided to more than 500 establishments, in particular gyms and fitness studios, which will receive a one-time disbursement ranging from S$5,000 to S$100,000 for the three-week period in May.

SportSG said that the amount disbursed took into account overhead costs such as rental and salaries.

To help individuals who have had at least a 50 per cent income loss during this period, S$2.8 million from the S$18 million fund have been set aside to provide eligible self-employed persons with a one-time cash payout of S$400 each.

More details on how this self-employed group may apply for the payout will be released once it is ready, SportSG said.

The agency will also increase the grant amount for the Self-Employed Person Project Grant from S$2.5 million to S$7.5 million.

The grant aims to help the self-employed collaborate with one another and develop projects to enhance the wellness of Singaporeans.

The S$7.5 million will allow SportSG to support about 300 projects, which is triple the original number. Successful grant applicants, who may choose to work individually or partner others, may get up to S$25,000 in funding for each project.

For fitness instructors, they may apply for the Continuing Coach Education Training Allowance Grant that allows them to claim S$7.50 for every claimable hour of the Continuing Coach Education training programme or up to S$300 a person until March 31 next year.

The Continuing Coach Education programme is for coaches who want to reskill or pick up new skills in their area of coaching, for instance, getting a basic certification in sports massage or fitness nutrition, or do team sports performance analysis.

The programme includes Continuing Coach Education courses facilitated by CoachSG, an academy that supports the professional development of coaches here, ExPro Fitness on-demand online learning content and events, and courses offered under the Union Training Assistance Programme as endorsed by the National Instructors and Coaches Association.

Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, reiterated in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the recent measures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus have been necessary, but they have also affected sport and fitness programme providers that are bearing the brunt of these measures. 

On the new support measures, he added: “Costs and overheads will still weigh on many affected businesses and affected professionals’ minds. I felt it would be fair to help them defray their overheads during this period. Their businesses have been curtailed, as part of a national effort to combat the virus.”

'NOT ENOUGH'

Various gym and studio owners expressed both relief and scepticism at the incentives to be rolled out by SportSG. 

Mr Marc Torel, owner of Platinum Fitness SG, said that he is unsure how much grant or payout his business would receive, adding that it will not help much if it is on the lower end. 

He has decided to keep his gym closed. “Our customers would not be attracted to come during this period because we require a higher intensity (for strength and stamina training at the gym), which is very equipment-based.”

On the other hand, Mr Rajesh Raushan, owner of Yoga Mala, said that the financial aid can help defray the income loss he has suffered during this period while he keeps his studio open. 

He has seen a “great decrease” in customers attending his basic yoga classes because they are not comfortable practising yoga while wearing face masks. 

“I’m worried... rental and paying of salaries are the main expenditure that I have to cover,” he said. 

Other fitness instructors and freelancers interviewed by TODAY welcome a bit of help from the Government, saying it would defray some costs of living and alleviate the stress of income loss. However, they said that it is not enough to cushion the blow. 

Mr Kelvin Tay, 33, a freelance fitness trainer, said that freelancers earn an average of S$2,000 to S$3,000 a month and the loss of income suffered by them is substantially more than the S$400 payout that SportSG is planning to give.

“If it extends beyond the three weeks, I might consider starting one-on-one classes. I’ll have to see the situation,” he added. 

Agreeing, another freelance fitness trainer, Ms Jolene Lim, 28, said that while the payout may take away some of the stress of income lost during this period, the amount is lower than other government grants in the past for the self-employed.

She had received some aid previously from the Temporary Relief Fund and the Covid-19 Recovery Grant, which provided a payout of S$500 each. 

Fitness instructor Muhammad Khalid, 35, who has moved to take up food delivery jobs after the gym where he worked stopped operations, is glad to get any help from the Government, saying that the S$400 payout can help pay for his meals and phone bills. 

LACK OF CLARITY

Over the weekend, owners of gyms and fitness studios expressed their frustration at the changes made to the regulations that have caused starts and stops to their planning and operations.  

In its advisory last Friday, SportSG said that private sports academies such as Muay Thai and boxing gyms can remain open, without specifying that these academies need to adhere to low-intensity regulations. 

Then in an updated advisory released on Sunday, it stated that these places can remain open only if they abide by the same regulations as gyms and yoga studios. 

Ms Sarah Stuart, 49, owner of F45 Jurong CBD training studio, said that before the update, there was a lot of confusion about what is defined as low-intensity exercise. 

“Does it mean people need to take their mask off? What’s high intensity for me might be low intensity for someone else.”

Other gym owners also questioned over the weekend why studios offering combat sports such as muay thai were allowed to open when participants have to be in close proximity to one another. 

Rock climbing and bouldering enthusiasts also pointed out that certain climbing gyms had to be closed while some, like Climb Central in Funan Mall, could still operate. 

In response to TODAY’s queries, SportSG said that it held a townhall session last Saturday to engage with operators and to address queries and concerns before making refinements to the regulations. 

“In addition, SportSG has been working closely with industry operators and representatives to further review and refine restrictions so that we could narrow down to low-risk activities that could continue safely over the next three weeks.” 

However, the agency said that the refinements will not be extended to the whole industry.

“Hence, to support establishments that are unable to stay open and impacted sports self-employed persons during these three weeks of tightened measures, we have set aside (a funding of) up to S$18 million. 

“We will continue our efforts to engage various partners from the industry to hear from them as the situation evolves.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTIN ONG

Related topics

Sports Covid-19 coronavirus SportSG safe distancing exercise gym

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