With the increasing growth of Coronavirus across the UK, how is it impacting individuals ability to participate in sport and remain healthy?
The spread of Covid-19 has already led to people stockpiling household essentials such as food, toilet roll, soap, hand sanitizers and other cleaning products. Many businesses are also being left with no choice other than to temporarily close due to it no longer being economically viable to remain open. However, in the midst of a public health crisis, now, more than ever, individuals have a desire to remain physically fit, but, in an era where even professional sporting events are being cancelled or played behind closed doors, it is becoming harder and harder to remain active.
So how does this translate among Eastlondonlines residents, sports clubs and centres? “Over the past few weeks day-to-day operations of the gym have become increasingly difficult due to the virus outbreak. We are unable to purchase any soaps for the toilets and are running low in supply” said Dominic Nardizz, 23, owner of Croydon Boxing Gym. “As for class sizes, all martial arts we host have noticed a dip in attendance. We would typically have at least a dozen new students entering the premises each day but have seen only a few in recent days.”
Nardizz explained that there is a legitimate fear among members of the community, with hygiene becoming everyone’s top concern. “Cleaning has become our number one priority, with the floors and surfaces being bleached two, or three times per day. The gym smells more like a hospital than a gym.”
It’s not just a change in the how much the gym is cleaned, there has been a change in the visitors also. “There is no Dettol on the shelves for cleaning communal-use gloves and we have even had to stop leaving extra rolls of toilet paper in the toilets as members have been taking them home.” Nardizz said. This issue highlights the level of fear and hysteria the virus is generating, with some individuals already weeks into stockpiling, leaving others – often less financially stable people – feeling as though they have been left behind and scared of now being at greater risk of infection.
With attendance dropping among contact sports such as boxing and martial arts, what about non contact activities? “Yes, it’s affecting all sports.” Said Azharul Islam, Manager of Royal Tigers Sports Club, who practice cricket. “The whole world is in panic now. Currently we are doing Winter training and a few people are not attending the sessions. When I called them to ask ‘what’s going on?’ They replied they were not coming because of the virus. Our club is facing an attendance problem. Only 70%- 80% of people are attending the sessions due to Coronavirus.”
Detailing how concern surrounding the virus is permeating every level of sport, Islam explained how a meeting has been called by the cricket league, set for the end of the month, to discuss any decisions relating to threats from the virus and the continuation of sporting activity.
These clubs are not isolated incidents. Many clubs fear that escalation of the virus is leading to imminent closure. Polygon Badminton Club, who operate out of Finsbury Park Leisure centre in Hackney explained that the most vulnerable individuals will be the ones that are forced to stop first. Speaking on attendance levels in recent weeks, Polygon told Eastlondonlines that while there has been no impact yet, they have a lot of older members which means that they will likely have to stop running sessions soon.
The virus has already led to lower attendance levels at sports clubs and events, with fears only growing that greater disruption is soon going to start affecting people’s bottom line. Yoga teacher Laura Kinnunen, 41, thinks people don’t want to be in confined spaces with other members of the public, let alone doing sport in them for long periods of time.
“I’ve noticed that numbers in my classes have been falling the past few weeks and I might need to start cancelling them soon” she told Eastlondonlines.
Speaking again to Dominic Nardizz from Croydon Boxing Club, the young entrepreneur expressed similar concerns. “We will have to see how government policy, and a possible lockdown, would affect our business, as well as the rest of the service sector. Operating on small margins already, a possible shutdown of business for a few weeks could be detrimental. After all, rent, bills and loans don’t go away in a shutdown!”
While peoples fear surrounding the Covid-19 virus grows, not only will it continue to decrease sports participation levels within the community – and to a greater extent, the nation – but lower attendance inevitably brings facility closures and the death of community clubs. Creating an additional, and unpredictable barrier to staying fit and healthy.