European pools and gyms slowly reopen but seniors wary

Rome (AFP) –


European gyms and pools began reopening Monday as the coronavirus lockdown eased in countries including Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain, but some elderly patrons remained wary of taking the plunge.

A week after Italy allowed bars and restaurants to restart, fitness centres also opened their doors again, albeit requiring a reservation.

A massive 18 million people attend around 8,000 gyms in Italy, according to the Istat statistics institute.

Italians have been allowed to go running increasing distances from home, but Istat reported that citizens had gained an average two kilos in weight during the two months of lockdown.

Almost a third of Italians had done no exercise during confinement, Istat said.

"Our clients are impatient, we've worked online with some regular clients but there's nothing like being in a real gym," said Roberto Pizzicone, who runs a gym in central Rome.

"We only made 200 euros over the last nearly three months and the next few months will be hard because 40 percent of our clients, often over 60 years old, tell us they want to wait a bit before coming back, to see how the pandemic is evolving," said Pizzicone.

- Keeping track of customers -

Fiorella Mari, 61, says she won't go back to her Milan gym when the hard-hit Lombardy region to the gym because I don't trust the other people, I'm worried they won't take care," said Mari.

Gym members must wear a mask on their way in but do not have to wear one while working out, and each piece of equipment must be disinfected after every use.

People must keep a two-metre distance between each other at all times.

Swimming pool users must have at least seven square metres of space to themselves, and keep at least a metre and a half away from other swimmers.

Swimming pools and gyms must keep a record of who has attended for at least two weeks, the virus's incubation period.

In Iceland, beauty therapist Helga Bergman, 55, said she had no concerns about being back working out at Reykjavik biggest gym, World Class Laugar.

"It’s great to be back, to get into my regular routine. It’s also been good to do other things," she added, including outside activities such as hiking and skiing.

"I feel like Covid-19 is almost finished here and I feel the gym is really safe, I know they clean a lot, they have a lot of antiseptic everywhere. (…) and we keep distance."

The island nation of 365,000 has had 1,804 cases of Covid-19, and 10 deaths from the virus.

- Pool capacity cut for safety -

About a dozen people were already queueing before doors opened on Monday morning at a municipal pool in Berlin.

"No fear of corona here because the water is chlorinated, meaning that the virus will more or less disinfected," said swimmer Lother Taienert.

Fellow swimmer Bernd Boesler said he had the impression everyone was obeying social distancing rules in the pool.

"I was above all surprised that it's not as full as feared," he said.

"Because only a certain number of people are allowed in and people should only swim in circles and not overtake each other," said Boesler

In Spain, the Ocean swimming pool in southern city Seville decided to open on Monday while others needed a few more weeks to implement the new health rules.

"We can put tables out at the bar, provided the two-metre distance between customers is respected," he said.

"It's advisable to reserve," he added.