muscle hq

Ontario gym that defied lockdown orders shuts down due to COVID outbreak

A GTA gym that remained open despite Ontario's rigid lockdown in recent months has now suddenly had to shutter due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

After being forced to close down indoor operations along with the rest of gyms and retaurants for the majority of the last year-plus, Muscle HQ in Oakville decided to open its doors earlier this year under somewhat of a bylaw loophole that permitted fitness facilities to open only for physical therapy as prescribed by a doctor during the provincewide shutdown.

"During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are open solely for persons that identify as having a disability, within the meaning of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, who have received written instruction for physical therapy from a regulated health professional," management of the independent gym made sure to state on Facebook.

That was, though, before numerous cases of the delta variant among members and/or staff spurred Halton Public Health to shut down the centre last week.

"It is with great sadness and regret that we would like to inform you all of the closure of Muscle HQ, effective immediately," co-owner Ali Siddiqui said in a video posted to Facebook and Instagram over the weekend.

"After a full six months of operation incident-free, we finally found the delta variant of the coronavirus at our gym. Within 48 hours, we had several cases at our gym and we felt it our responsibility to take action."

The business closed itself for 72 hours for a deep clean and notified  members of potential exposure, as well as public health for the sake of contact tracing. Health officials then deemed the whopping 425 people who had been in the gym since June 21 as "high risk" and instructed them to isolate.

The establishment was then shutdown by a Section 22 Close Order, employed to break chains of transmission in settings identified as having an outbreak, on July 3.

Such orders are enacted when five or more confirmed cases are identified within a 14-day period, and where cases could "reasonably have been acquired through infection in the workplace." They necessitate the closure of a business for at least 10 calendar days while workers quarantine.

Management of the QEW and Trafalgar Road facility have said on social media that they are looking forward to opening its doors to eligible members once public health deems it is safe to do so, and reiterate their stance as a cash-strapped small business that has not qualified for government subsidies due to how new it is.

"We the owners have yet to receive a paycheque. Every dollar that we receive goes right back into the gym," Siddiqui said into the camera.

Muscle HQ is certainly not the only centre of its kind that has remained open despite the fact that Ontario gyms have, to most people's understanding, long been shuttered, in many regions as far back as fall 2020.

Some have been operating through the aforementioned loophole for physical therapy or as centres for professional athletic training, while others are just operating underground, like businesses in other industries.

Gym owners are among the businesses that have long been demanding that the provincial government loosen what they see as unfair and unjustified lockdown restrictions given that they believe their settings to be extremely safe, as far as transmission risks are concerned, when open with stringent health and safety measures.

Based on the current 3-step Roadmap to Reopen, gyms provincewide will be able to open with capacity limits in place as soon as July 21, when we are due to progress to Step 3.

Lead photo by

Muscle HQ

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