For many Hongkongers, September 4 felt like a gift from heaven. After nearly two months, gyms, fitness studios and yoga rooms opened and workout classes resumed . At one point during the second wave of the coronavirus, Hongkongers were forced outdoors to exercise, required to wear a mask in the hottest months of the year, only to find public activity equipment taped off, running routes patrolled by police and beaches shut. Police were reported making the rounds on hiking trails, handing out fines for breaking the two-person limit and for not wearing masks in what felt like an attack on the last bastion of fitness in the city. It seemed as if officials were doing everything in their power to ban working out when, in fact, it was simply a casualty of a government which has proven more than willing to strangle the local economy to fight Covid-19. To some, this is a necessary evil in a global pandemic, while others question locking down people’s lives and forcing them to adapt to various restrictions with no indication of when they may return to normal. In April, after the first closure, a number of gyms were given a HK$100,000 subsidy grant, but for most it barely covered a month’s rent during a time where revenue had basically flatlined. Gyms owners were forced to shut their doors, many permanently. The second round of relief, offered in September which many gyms are still waiting for, was half of the first one. While gym owners said they were grateful they got something instead of nothing , the message from the community was crystal clear. Rather than shut us down and offer minor relief funds that barely cover rent, let us stay open amid restrictions. It’s tough to argue against this, health and wellness are one of the best weapons we have in fighting the coronavirus. Sadly nothing has changed. The Hong Kong Alliance of Boutique Fitness Operators, formed during the second wave as gyms went bankrupt at an alarming rate, said the government has not reached out to any of them as a potential fourth wave threatens to strike this winter. The alliance also noted the fitness industry is still classified under entertainment, which includes nightclubs and music venues. The government has shown it lacks any real understanding of the fitness industry. When gyms reopened on September 4, patrons were forced to wear masks while working out. The World Health Organisation does not recommend wearing a mask while working out, as it can restrict breathing and promote the growth of microorganisms. Fitness establishments, like hot yoga and Brazilian jiu-jitsu studios, found themselves in a bind. They were allowed to reopen, but owners worried wearing masks might end up doing more harm than good. The measure was lifted after two weeks, another ill-informed move by bureaucrats and reminiscent of the dine-in ban that forced construction workers to eat in the blazing heat of the summer. Asked how the Home Affairs Bureau would handle a potential fourth wave in relation to the fitness industry, Commissioner of Sports Yeung Tak-keung trotted out the government strategy of “suppress and lift”. “The government adopts the ‘suppress and lift’ strategy in the light of the pandemic situation,” he said. “We have reminded the fitness centre trade to stay vigilant and strictly follow the social distancing measures and conditions specified in the legislation. We hope all fitness centres and their users will adopt proper health precautionary measures to help fight the pandemic.” The “suppress and lift” strategy is to suppress the virus through social distancing and restrictions, and when cases are low, monitor and look at lifting restrictions. Experts are unsure as to the severity of a fourth wave , its duration or when it may roll through Hong Kong, but one thing is for certain, if the fitness industry is forced to shut down again, it will spell financial ruin for many more small business owners. Coronavirus: what is Hong Kong doing to curb a potential fourth wave? The government should be out in front of this next wave, having learned their lessons from the second wave. Putting specifically tailored plans in place for yoga studios, gyms, fitness boutiques, along with sports venues, should be a priority. The cash handout for Hong Kong coaches, who number in the thousands, is another glaring problem. During the first round, they got HK$7,500, then last month it was HK$5,000. For most working professionals, this wouldn’t even cover half a month’s rent. For coaches, 2020 has left many in ruin and many have left. These ramifications will be felt for years as athletes find themselves without proper training, guidance or leadership. Hong Kong’s sporting community as a whole has been brought to its knees, and one wonders if it will ever get back to the way it was. ‘We’re dead in the water’: Hong Kong gyms bleed out as they reopen Hong Kong’s swimming community also found themselves in a similarly frustrating situation. Pools were allowed to reopen in mid-September, most of them shut for months on end. Beaches are still closed in a head-scratching move, meaning anyone who wants to swim in the ocean will probably have to break the law. For many Hongkongers, exercise is a daily ritual. They are the lifeblood of Hong Kong’s once robust, fast-paced economy that will require years of hard work to get back to normal. They are lawyers, bankers, tech workers, entrepreneurs, service industry employees, all of whom value their work-life balance and keep fit so they can excel at demanding, challenging careers. Forcing them outside their gyms and studios to find makeshift ways to work out is counterintuitive approach and creating even more stress. If and when a fourth wave hits, one can only pray the government surprises us. But with silence the resounding theme once again, it seems like more of the same, and the past may soon become the present.