COLUMN – Fitness in Belgium: From privilege to acquired freedom

Do you remember when you entered a local gym in Belgium two years ago, scanned your member card, plugged in your earphones and trained to your heart’s content for two hours without Covid-19 measures? Me neither. Sadly enough freely working out in gyms is no longer of this time.

And if you thought that entering a gym with a face mask was a pain, then you are in for quite the kicker: the Belgian government decided yesterday that every person who wants to work out in a Flemish fitness club needs to provide a Covid Safe Ticket (CST) or proof of full vaccination when they enter the club. Yes, that’s right: if you cannot present any of these documents, then you simply are not allowed inside the gym.

Welcome to Belgium October 2021, where working out in a club without proof of being Covid-19 free is apparently deemed life-threatening for the people around you. At least that is what the virologists, health experts and ministers tell you on national television, the newspapers and the internet.

And suddenly every newspaper wrote about the coronavirus. © fotografiekb via Pixabay

How it all started
The beginning of the end of freely going to the gym started on 4 February 2020. At least no one in Belgium was aware of it at that time. Suddenly you were bombarded everywhere by this new term: Covid-19. What is that? Apparently, it is a newly discovered virus that originated from Wuhan, China. What a weird name for a virus, though. Little did we know that that weird virus would change our life for good.

On a given day I arrived at my local gym, face mask in hand and entered the gym. Everyone was dutifully wearing their masks and disinfecting every piece of fitness equipment after they had used it. I shook my head in a disapproval: apparently, people need to wear masks that give no protection against viruses -as mentioned on the packaging and need to keep a meter and a half distance between every other person. But, you can take your mask off during exercising or when you sit down.

Illogical and unscientific
Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind these protocols? Why do you need to wear protection that does not prevent you from transmitting the virus or passing it on to other people, therefore also negating the intention and effect behind keeping distance from other people. And of course, when you lift a weight without a face mask or bench press a halter, you cannot spread the virus by breathing out, right? How can these measures be based on scientific research? Is Covid-19 as contagious as it is deemed to be or are we being fooled by the government?

The Covid-19 measures in gyms stayed the same throughout the lockdowns. Queven via Pixabay

And then the lockdowns happened. In between lockdowns the Covid-19 measures in gyms remained the same: wear your face mask, exercise social distance and disinfect every piece of equipment you use. The same old measures that have no scientific basis nor have a significant proven effect on decreasing the number of infections. And then suddenly in August, no more protocols in local gyms. Can we finally close this Covid-19 chapter and return to normal or is this another prelude before the fourth lockdown?

Freedom taken away bit by bit
I forgot the liberating feeling associated with going to the gym: no longer feeling confined by wearing a facemask felt heavenly. Finally, we have a part of our freedom back. Hopefully we can go back to normal in a few months and accept Covid-19 as a weak, unreliable virus that does not threaten 99 percent of the global population. Alas, there is another twist to the whole coronavirus saga.

At the beginning of October, news of a higher number of covid infections started to appear in the media and newspapers once again. Here we go, in a few weeks it is time for lockdown number four. Sigh, I just started to get used to having regained a bit of freedom. Little did I know that what the government proposed, would signal the gradual loss of the Belgian people’s liberty.

On 13 October Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium, introduced the Covid Safe Ticket in Flanders. To enter a gym or a club in Flanders visitors need to show proof of full vaccination or CST in the form of a QR-code. If this trend continues, Belgians will have to earn their freedom again and again: going to events, entering public buildings, going to your work and so much more will have to be earned and will no longer be offered freely as a privilege to the Belgian population. Long live the fake Belgian democracy system.

Text: Jellen Monsieur
Photos: © Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (CC0)