A fitness and wellness alliance representing 236 gyms and studios has formally asked the government to reopen their businesses on December 23 when new restrictions expire , but it is not optimistic they will be allowed patrons until well into 2021. A proposal by the Hong Kong Fitness and Alliance of Fitness and Wellness Limited outlines their plan to reopen, noting the health and wellness industry has endured more than 105 days of closure and is in a dire financial situation. Representatives from the alliance delivered the presentation to Peter Shiu Ka-fai, a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Crystal Au-Yeung, the owner of Kru Muay Thai in Central, said they are celebrating their two-year anniversary of being open this month, but it is a solemn one. Au-Yeung, who is a member of the alliance, said they received little warning to shut down for the fourth wave, and are still waiting on a second round of subsidy (HK$50,000) from the government, which was first promised in September. She said her business is barely a few months away from going bankrupt, which would force her to close down permanently. “We’re very pessimistic,” she said about the prospects of the government allowing gyms to reopen, even under heavy guidelines and restrictions. “We’re thinking this is going to last until 2021.” With close to half a dozen staffers and 60 regular patrons, Au-Yeung said they were originally optimistic at the start of the fourth wave . The government did not shut down the fitness and sporting industry when the fourth wave first arrived in November, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor abruptly pulled the plug on gyms and studios on December 8. Representatives from the fitness industry told the South China Morning Post they were essentially given no warning whatsoever, and found out with the rest of the general public. Au-Yeung said it took them all by surprise, given there was a lot of productive dialogue between the government and the industry after the third wave. “There was this consensus it seemed that if we complied with all of these rules we would be allowed to stay open,” she said. “But then, after all of the efforts and all of the discussions we had, we fully complied with all of these measures, creating a safe environment for the industry as a whole that the government can trust, and then the shutdown notice came.” On Thursday, the government made a surprise announcement of a HK6.4 billion relief package for hard-hit businesses, mentioning gyms and fitness studios. About 1,860 fitness centres will be eligible for HK$100,000, and the government will pay the salaries of about 4,450 part-time instructors until the end of January. Tricia Yap, who runs Limitless Health in Central, said it is still not enough, as most owners haven’t even received the HK$50,000 promised, and won’t get it given they don’t meet the stringent small business requirements for the aid. Yap said the relief neglects receptionists, who play a big part in monitoring everyone who visits studios, as well as health declaration forms and temperature checks. “We’re asking for utilities bills too, as some landlords charge electricity and gas and water direct to the lessee so they don’t receive a bill from HK Electric.” Yap added the interpretation of the rules, when the fourth wave started and gyms were allowed to reopen, shows there is still a lot of miscommunication between the government and the industry. “There have been a few arrests prior to lockdown where police interpreted rules different to the health department,” said Yap. The proposal given to Shiu noted the local industry is under “aggravated stress” and also may miss the busiest time of year for fitness owners. January brings a rush of new clients looking to fulfil New Year’s resolutions to get fit and stay healthy. The report also outlines that there has not been a directly linked case to the health and wellness industry specifically. What is the government’s plan if a fourth wave hits fitness industry? The proposal asks for HK$150,000 minimum for all locally owned gyms and fitness studios, which would be more than the first round of subsidies (HK$100,000) delivered in April. Michael Melly, the founder of House of Fitness, a boutique high-intensity workout studio in Sheung Wan, said many within the industry were confused about the rules and restrictions that initially came out with the fourth wave and how to interpret them. “And then all of a sudden everything is closed,” said Melly, “because apparently gyms are responsible for spreading the virus.” Melly said owners like himself invested in a lot of equipment, including dividers and sanitisers, looking to comply with the new restrictions that came out with the fourth wave, under the impression that if they followed them they could stay open. Melly said police twice came to his gym, and the second time around interpreted the rules completely differently, telling them they could only have two people. “It just makes all of this very challenging and creates a lot of uncertainty,” he said.