Gym owner Natalie Flood backs use of SafeKey
A gym owner has appealed to others in the sector to adopt the SafeKey scheme and insisted that the precaution against Covid-19 did not have to be a deal-breaker for business.
Natalie Flood said she hoped it would “inspire other business owners rather than upset them”.
SafeKey, which confirms that people had been vaccinated or had a recent clear coronavirus test, was introduced for indoor businesses, including gyms and restaurants, in August as the island’s cases of Covid-19 started to climb.
But the scheme came under fire from a group of gym owners who said it was discriminatory, damaged business and failed to take into account that membership gyms meant the same groups attended at the same times and remained in a “bubble” of contacts.
Health officials closed Magnum Power Force Gym on Church Street in Hamilton for two weeks last Monday for failure to comply with SafeKey regulations.
Ms Flood, who runs the Shamana Circle Studio on Front Street, said she opposed SafeKey at first, which uses an individual QR code.
She added: “When the Government dropped the hammer of SafeKey, I thought like everybody else that this would cripple me.
“We didn’t have front of house or a receptionist, so there was no clear way of implementing it.”
Ms Flood said she had phoned the government switchboard and asked to speak to “whoever was in charge of SafeKey”.
She said an official called her back and “talked me off the ledge”.
Ms Flood, who declined to provide membership numbers for her studio which specialises in yoga and Pilates, said the move had been supported by her clients.
She added: “We have more members now.
“We’re still struggling, but even though SafeKey is a hard pill to swallow, people feel safer, and that needs to trump everything else.
Ms Flood said customers had to wear masks until they reached their workout spaces.
The studio has also voluntarily reduced capacity over the latest wave of Covid-19.
Ms Flood added that her business had not found SafeKey intrusive.
She added: “The idea is anonymity. We don’t know who is vaccinated and who isn’t.”
Ms Flood admitted that SafeKey was not infallible.
But she explained: “If you’re putting all the preventive measures in place, you’re going to feel a lot better if something does happen.”
Ms Flood said she understood why some gym owners opposed the regulations.
She added: “They don’t feel heard. Nobody wants to feel that way.
“It’s hard to be sympathetic to both sides but I’m trying as hard as I can.”
But Ms Flood said: “SafeKey is a bridge to keep the community safe.
“At least it’s not mandatory vaccination. In Toronto right now, you can’t enter a yoga studio without being vaccinated.”
She added her message was meant to be about working together, rather than causing “more divide”.
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