With the government in Warsaw imposing strict lockdown measures on almost 70 percent of Poland’s population, a gym in Krakow has found a way to operate, albeit in a severely limited capacity – by declaring itself a church.
“Since fitness classes cannot function, starting today our club will start hosting religious gatherings of the ‘Church of the Healthy Body’,” Marta Jamroz, manager of the Atlantic Sports Fitness in Poland’s second-largest city, wrote on Facebook over the weekend.
Hard to believe? Everything is possible in this world.
Jamroz assured gym members that “everything is in accordance with the law.” Under the government measures, churches are restricted to one person per four square meters (43 square feet) in the ‘yellow’ zones and seven square meters (75 square feet) in ‘red’ zones, while gyms, swimming pools and water parks must close.
After coronavirus restrictions forced gyms to close, one in Kraków has announced that it is now a shop allowing people to "test" equipment for a fee and a church offering "religious meetings" to promote bodily care https://t.co/6YLZkQmQzZ
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 18, 2020
As of Monday, all of Poland has been designated a ‘yellow’ zone, while most cities – accounting for some 70 percent of the country’s population – have been declared ‘red’ zones, including Krakow.
The government announced it would reimpose a lockdown on Thursday, citing a spike in coronavirus cases. There were 8,099 new cases and 91 deaths attributed to Covid-19 as of that morning, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.
In addition to locking down gyms and restricting restaurant hours, the government has banned weddings in ‘red’ zones, and restricted them to parties of 20 people or less – provided there is no dancing – in the ‘yellow’ zones.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has insisted the government is trying to implement a “middle way” between a total lockdown and no restrictions.
“We want to defend the economy, but also the lives of our citizens,” Morawiecki said. “We want to implement the restrictions, but we want the economy to work as much as possible.”
Jamroz says her gym is fighting not just for the health of its members, but also for its survival, the jobs of the staff, and the freedom of choice. “We are here for you, and without you there is no us,” she said on Facebook.
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Gyms across the world have been forced to shutter amid the lockdowns intended to curb the spread of the virus. The Atlantic gym’s workaround wouldn’t work across the ocean of the same name, however, as the US states that imposed the strictest lockdowns have also banned most church gatherings.
A New Jersey gym made headlines this spring when it tried to reopen in defiance of the governor’s ban, only for its owners to be arrested and punished with astronomical fines and the loss of their business license. Their arguments that strict sanitation protocols have led to precisely zero infections fell on deaf ears. New Jersey eventually allowed churches to reopen in August, and gyms in September – both at 25 percent capacity.
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