Can I go to the gym or sports centre in my French town?

Reader question: I saw that gyms and sports halls are now closed in parts of France and I wanted to know where, what the rules are and when they will be open again?

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Health minister Olivier Véran announced in a speech last week that gyms, sports halls and sports clubs would have to close in the parts of France most affected by coronavirus.

These measures were introduced as part of a new five-colour alert system aimed at stemming the spread of the virus and came into force on September 26.

It means that in departments or cities now categorised as “heightened alert” zones, gyms and sports halls will have to close.

In the departments or cities categorised as “maximum alert zones”, in addition to gyms and sports halls closing, sports clubs will also have to close.

Sports clubs may also be closed in other departments, depending on the decision of the club management and the local authorities.

Heightened alert zones:

Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris and the inner suburbs, Rennes, Rouen, Saint-Étienne and Toulouse.

Maximum alert zones:

Aix-Marseille and Guadeloupe.

In all other departments or cities, gyms, sports halls and sports clubs can remain open, at the discretion of local authorities. Normal social distancing and gesture barriers, such as hand washing and wearing a mask, will continue to be enforced.

The new measures introduced by Mr Véran are intended to remain in place for at least two weeks. A review of the measures will be made each week in the minister’s televised coronavirus update.

What about sports in less affected areas?

Sports are still permitted in much of France, not included in the new restrictions in place for places in the “heightened alert” and “maximum alert” zones.

Permitted sports:

  • All individual sports (cycling, jogging, walking, hiking, yoga) indoor and outdoors, except where restrictions apply to heightened and maximum alert zones.
  • All team sports (football, basketball, rugby, etc) provided that preventative health measures are respected (hand washing, mask-wearing when not playing, social distancing when not playing etc).

In areas where the virus is actively circulating - this applies to the majority of departments in France - the prefect of the department may impose local restrictions on sports activities.

What is the sanitary protocol for sports halls and gyms?

Gyms and sports halls are now closed in heightened and maximum alert zones (see above lists).

For other departments, there are sanitary protocols in place at gyms and sports halls:

  • Hydroalcoholic gel. This must be provided at the entrance to the gym or sports hall and near exercise machines. People working out have been asked to clean their hands before using the machines.
  • Distancing. Machines should be spaced two metres apart where possible.
  • Room capacity. The number of people must be limited in communal areas, in order to respect social distancing rules of at least two metres.
  • Masks. Wearing a mask is obligatory when moving between exercise machines, in the changing rooms or at the reception desk. Masks can be removed when using machines or doing exercises.
  • Cleaning. Gym-goers should clean the exercise machines or weights after they use them. Sports hall and gym managers should ensure that the rooms are thoroughly cleaned (at least once a day).
  • Ventilation. It is up to the manager of the gym or sports hall to ensure that rooms are well ventilated and that windows / extraction fans or AC units are properly functioning.

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