Montreal

Gyms, arenas, indoor pools to reopen in Quebec, with conditions

Quebecers will soon be allowed to return to indoor sports and recreation facilities while maintaining physical-distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Physical-distancing and hygiene guidelines must still be followed, province says

People are seen here working out, in masks, at a gym in California. Quebec is expected to allow gyms and other indoor sports venues to reopen June 22. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Quebecers will soon be allowed to return to indoor sports and recreation facilities, including gyms, pools and arenas. 

But they will be required to comply with physical-distancing and hygiene guidelines, said Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for sports, in making the announcement Wednesday.

That means a sport like hockey will look quite different, perhaps limited to practices or special competitions, to ensure players stay apart. Only limited, incidental contact will be allowed, she said. 

Gyms will be required to follow the limit of 50 people gathered indoors, while maintaining distance and ensuring equipment is kept clean.

Charest said sports federations are each developing their own adaptations to ensure the guidelines are respected. The facilities will be allowed to open June 22.

"We have faith that the organizations will apply the rules, and the citizens will apply the rules," she said.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, said sports have "enormous" physical and mental health benefits. He said people should stay active while continuing to follow the public health guidelines.

"It's a reopening, but it's not the same," he said.

People will also be required to follow the guidelines in change rooms. Arruda said they should not be used if possible, given the difficulty in maintaining two metres distance.

Charest noted the announcement means nearly all sports and recreational activities are now allowed again in Quebec, except for combat sports.

Earlier this month, the province lifted the ban on outdoor team sports, such as soccer and baseball, with the same conditions.

The province had already allowed many non-contact sports, such as golf and singles tennis.

Activities such as open-water swimming, jogging, cycling, hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking and canoeing are also already permitted.

'Very little information'

Paul Ménard, the director general of Hockey Québec, says while he's happy about the announcement, he's still waiting for more guidelines from the government. 

"We have very little information at this point in time," he said.

Ménard said from the information provided so far, as of next week, three-on-three or four-on-four games will be allowed, but only between opponents who live in the same region.

Players will have to continue to respect physical distancing on the benches. He said physical distancing on the ice would be difficult, pointing out that two players chasing the same puck will bump up against one another.

Mathieu Dumontet, who owns Crossfit Capop in Ville-Marie, is confident his gym will be able to operate, even with the restrictions in place. 

He said gym owners will have to be more thorough when it comes to cleaning, but that shouldn't be a problem.

"We're in the business of cleaning," said Dumontet, who is also a spokesperson for Coalition des studios d'entraînement privés du Québec, an association of about 150 private gym owners.

"Nobody goes to a gym that is dirty." 

Gym owners are considering measures such as creating buffer periods so staff can clean equipment between workout sessions, and having staff supervise the gym to make sure everyone is physically distancing, he said.

Dumontet explained closing locker rooms would not be a huge problem during the summer because clients already show up wearing their workout clothes, and shower at home.

He said gym owners have already been putting in Plexiglass in their gyms, just waiting for the day when they can open up. 

"It's not going to be operating as we are used to, but it's better than being closed and waiting."

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