The Greater Chennai Corporation is exploring options to open 3,500-odd gyms in the city to protect the livelihood of 15,000 people associated with the trade.

Corporation Commissioner G. Prakash has ordered officials to study all aspects of the loss of livelihood by gym owners and workers of the establishments during the lockdown. Gyms have been closed for the last 115 days now. Public health experts have objected to the opening of the gyms to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the city.

At least two lakh people visit gyms in the city, increasing the risk of COVID-19 spread during the pandemic. The Corporation has so far refused permission for gyms to re-open.

According to a petition submitted to the Corporation Commissioner by representatives of gyms, many owners and workers had been forced to vacate the premises because of the lockdown.

Owners said most gyms were located in large commercial spaces measuring more than 1,000 sq ft. Many were in an area of more than 2,000 sq ft. As a result, the alternatives available for gyms to store the equipment were inadequate.

“Once the gym is closed, we will not be able to shift the equipment to other locations. More than 75% of the gyms are located on rented premises. The building owners are forcing the gym management to vacate. They are planning to find other tenants to get regular income. If the situation continues for a few more weeks, more than 75% of the gyms would be permanently closed. More than 10,000 people will lose their source of livelihood,” said a representative.

The Corporation permitted salons, beauty parlours and hotels to function with restrictions after the lockdown was relaxed. But gyms remained closed. The Corporation also prevented residents from visiting 700 parks for their regular walk. Residents who walked on the road were penalised. This led to loss of space for physical activity and training in the city, he said.

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