By Theresa Goodwin
The recent pronouncement by government that gyms and fitness centres on the island have been added to the growing list of businesses that are required to do business with only fully vaccinated patrons has come as quite a surprise to may operators who say they are still awaiting official confirmation from the relevant authorities.
Observer media reached out to a number of operators who say they were taken aback by the information that was announced by the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda, and even more so, how this new policy will be implemented and in what timeframe.
One business owner went as far as to indicate that such a policy is not clear-cut, outlining that the membership at his establishment comprises customers that are fully vaccinated, people who have received at least one dose of an approved Covid-19 shot, and are waiting to get the second dose.
His customers also include a handful of unvaccinated people and others who are not able to get a vaccine due to health reasons.
Another operator also asked what sort of systems will be put in place for the unvaccinated who have already paid for the entire month.
The operator said that some people have also paid for 3- and 6-month memberships, and if those monies are refunded, it will translate into huge revenue losses for the businesses which are already incurring additional costs to maintain the health and safety protocols on a daily basis.
The owner of a fitness centre on the northern side of the island said that while he understands the move by the government is to protect citizens, it should be done in consultation with all the relevant parties that are directly affected.
He stressed that it is the business owners that are required to make the necessary changes, so their input should not be disregarded.
On Friday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas warned that operators of bars, nightclubs and gyms have a primary responsibility to ensure that the rules regarding fully vaccinated people are adhered to within their establishments.
The rules which took effect on August 1 were specifically for bars and nightclubs, restaurants were also included, but those were later removed from the list after government officials pointed out that it was not feasible.
“We have ensured that when we crafted these new regulations, we placed a significant onus on bar owners, club owners and now gymnasiums, that [they] will be required to ensure that [they] inspect the persons who come into the establishment and act as that point of filter.
“[The CBH and law enforcement] will act as the enforcement agencies. Based on inspections, if it turns out that [these establishments] have permitted a breach of the regulations, then they will suffer the financial consequences, Nicholas explained on Friday.