Gym operators in Ipoh, echoing counterparts in rest of the country, say they can no longer sustain businesses without opening

·4-min read
Fitness Lifestyle Gym owner V. Sam Pakiaraj speaks during an interview at his gym in Desa Rishah, Ipoh September 1, 2021. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Fitness Lifestyle Gym owner V. Sam Pakiaraj speaks during an interview at his gym in Desa Rishah, Ipoh September 1, 2021. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Sept 5 — Gym owners here are pleading with the government to allow them to reopen soon as many are close to shutting down permanently.

Gym operators interviewed by Malay Mail said they are struggling to pay utility costs, maintenance fees, rent and loans as they have had zero income for the last five months as gyms were not allowed to operate during the movement control order (MCO).

Fitness Lifestyle Gym owner V. Sam Pakiaraj estimated he has suffered losses of about RM80,000 since the closure of gyms in April.

“I had invested a lot in the business as gym equipment is expensive. We have to pay the rent, utility bills, loans and staff salaries,” he said.

Sam said that he can’t afford to lose his trainers as he will need their expertise when the business resumes and it’s difficult to find experienced and certified trainers.

He also said that he has yet to receive the one-off RM3,000 special assistance from the government under the National People’s Well-Being and Economy Recovery Package (Pemulih).

Sam pointed out that the authorities do not seem to have much awareness of the fitness industry.

“Most of the Covid-19 patients are dying because they don’t have healthy lungs, diabetes and many more underlying illnesses.

“But we can overcome this problem by doing fitness activities. It will help people to lead healthy lives. By right the government should give priority to us to reopen,” he explained.

With gyms forced to close, Sam said those who once led a healthy lifestyle are now unable to maintain their fitness regime, which puts them at risk if they contract Covid-19.

Fitness Lifestyle Gym owner V. Sam Pakiaraj cleans fitness equipment at his gym in Desa Rishah, Ipoh September 1, 2021. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Fitness Lifestyle Gym owner V. Sam Pakiaraj cleans fitness equipment at his gym in Desa Rishah, Ipoh September 1, 2021. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Sam also urged the government to vaccinate gym trainers and workers in order to allow the public to feel safe when they go to the gym.

Golden Gym Science Based Fitness Centre owner David Sangker, 52, said that the government should consider prioritising gym owners and workers for Covid-19 vaccines.

“In my case, I got the AstraZeneca vaccine and I had to wait another 60 days to get my second dose. Plus we still have to wait another 14 days after the vaccination.

“What if the government decides to reopen gyms in the next few days? I can’t open my business because I’m yet to be fully vaccinated. This is not fair as we’re not allowed to choose the vaccine,” he lamented.

David pointed out that his gym also serves as a rehabilitation centre and its closure has affected his customers’ physiotherapy treatments.

“Some of our customers are stroke patients, those who underwent surgeries such as bypass. Some of the customers’ health deteriorated as they were not able to attend the physio sessions. A few have even died,” he said.

Another gym owner R. Surendaran, 42, said that he had to pawn the family’s jewellery in order to cover the gym costs.

“I’m not sure how long I can survive like this. Some of the payments are still pending. I still need to settle them and at the moment, I’m depending on my wife’s salary.

“I have also informed my staff that I will pay their pending salaries in installments once the gym is open. But for that, the government has to allow us to open our business,” he said.

Surendaran also said that many gyms have closed permanently and are still in debt as they are unable to sell their equipment.

“Who is going to buy the equipment now? Those who want to venture into this business will think twice after seeing the struggles gym operators are going through.

“The government should find an immediate way to help gym owners. Some of the gym owners, including me, have yet to receive any financial aid from the government despite suffering a huge loss compared to other businesses,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jason Chua, 25, an online lifestyle coach, added that the closure of gyms had caused a severe drop in his client base.

Chua said that he had to move from physical training sessions to online training in order to continue his business as a trainer.

“The first month was a bit difficult to adapt to the changes, but the following month things started to work out.

“I can go through this transition as I have some experience in content creating and graphic designing. However, the older generation gym owners are struggling to adapt to the changes,” he said.

He also said that the government should be unbiased when allowing economic sectors to reopen as gyms are still closed despite other businesses, which carry a higher risk of Covid-19 infection, having been allowed to resume.

Chua urged the government to immediately allow gym operators to resume business or they will have no choice but to shut down permanently.

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