After COVID restrictions, gym owners still ‘facing imprisonment’ over debts

Lifting weights at a gym in Cairo, Egypt
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — When the COVID-19 pandemic first spread to Jordan, the government acted swiftly, implementing a series of stringent preventative health measures across the country including a nationwide lockdown and ordering the closure of several sectors.اضافة اعلان

Some businesses by nature require people to share equipment and be in close proximity to each other in an enclosed space. These businesses have been among the hardest hit financially since the pandemic first struck the Kingdom.

Gyms are one such type of business. Following monthslong lockdowns, government mandates requiring gymgoers to be fully vaccinated have made it difficult for gym owners to make up for their losses.

Haitham Baroudi, an athlete who owns a gym, told Jordan News that “the protocol issued by the government relating to the opening of gyms is unclear.” 

“Most of the workers and the members are younger than 30 years old, and they have not been vaccinated yet — some are even unwilling to get vaccinated,” Baroudi explained.

“Why it is not a condition to be vaccinated when going to malls or cafes?” he asked. “Why is it only stipulated for gym members to be vaccinated?”

Gyms are at risk of closing due to owners’ inability to pay rent or pay bank installments, said Mohammad Najjar, a personal trainer who spoke to Jordan News.

Najjar added that "Our gym may close its doors if the situation continues as it is now; our losses are great due to the previous lockdown decisions, and now we can barely survive."

Gym owners say the government should intervene by helping them find solutions to the problem, as for many people working out is an “essential part of their lifestyle”.

"I believe that if you allow people to go to weddings, hotels, and malls without being vaccinated, you should also allow them to go the gym — there is nothing different,” Najjar contended.

A source at the Jordanian Federation for Bodybuilding and Fitness, who spoke to Jordan News on condition of anonymity, said that "a number of academy owners are threatened with imprisonment as a result of their inability to fulfill their (financial) obligations."

The source added that "we demand that the government pay attention to this vital sector,” stressing that “40,000 families” benefit from the job opportunities the sector provides.

The source said that the government had not set up a compensation program for those in the sector who had lost their jobs. “What shall they do now? This was their only source of livelihood and now they’ve lost it,” the source concluded.

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