The recent closure of dance studios, and other indoor group fitness activities, is “becoming a mess” for every school, says one Surrey studio director.
In updated orders issued by the B.C. government Tuesday (Nov. 24), all indoor group fitness studios must shut down until updated guidance can be worked out.
Studios affected by the new restrictions include: gymnastics, dance studios, martial arts, yoga, pilates, strength and conditioning and cheerleading. Regular gyms and individual training may stay open.
On Nov. 19, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had instructed spin, HIIT and hot yoga studios to close indefinitely because they could not operate safely during heightened COVID-19 transmission in recent weeks.
Following that, some studios reopened on the weekend, only to have to close again on Tuesday.
Hardeep Singh Sahota, the director of Royal Academy of Bhangra, said the provincial government should be guiding the schools in how to create their COVID-19 safety plans.
“We are not Fraser Health. We are a normal school. We don’t work with the doctors. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. They’re the ones who need to actually guide us,” said Sahota, adding that the studios can’t keep going back and forth.
“It’s becoming big mess for every school. It’s not only our school. It’s every school. How long are the kids going to learn online? It’s been almost six to eight months people have been trying to teach online and kids are losing focus. Sooner or later, they’re going to say they don’t want to do that activity.”
He said Royal Academy of Bhangra “might be able to survive for another one to three years,” based on the way the studio is set up, but he added he’s heard of studios that have shut down permanently since the pandemic started.
“Competitions happen once or twice per year in Vancouver — I’m just talking about the bhangra competitions. They didn’t happen this year. So when it’s going to happen next year, are people actually going to have the teams? No, because kids are gone. It’s done, there are no teams to compete.”
Sahota provided the Now-Leader with its five-page, double-sided COVID-19 health and safety plan, which includes protocols for students arriving at the studio, exiting the studio and dancing in the studio. It also includes the studio’s contact tracing measures and photos of how the studio is now set up to ensure distance between dancers.
However, Sahota said he has yet to find out if the school plan has been approved, or even accepted.
In an emailed statement from the Ministry of Health, it states that indoor group physical activities “can only resume when the business has updated their COVID-19 safety plan and received plan approval from their local Medical Health Officer.”
Revised plans, the statement adds, are to be submitted to the businesses’ local health authority, and the “temporary restrictions” will “remain in effect until rescinded as these activities where people are increasing their heart rate are venues where there can be rapid spread of this virus.”
This comes after 38 people from a dance school in Chilliwack tested positive for COVID-19, which then led to exposures in 13 schools, earlier in November.
Referring to the cases at the Chilliwack studio, Sahota said the closure was needed there, but added, “Nothing is actually available for us to understand that, OK, this many cases came from dance studios, so we need to shut down because people are not taking precautions.
“Without knowing about Royal Academy of Bhangra’s (protocols), they just said, ‘All the dance studios are to close again.’”
– With files from Katya Slepian