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Morocco : Will public baths and gyms be able to apply social distancing measures ?

On Thursday, public baths and gyms in Morocco will be able to resume their activities. However, owners believe that it is hard to apply social distancing measures within their businesses.

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After a three-month closure, various facilities will open their doors and resume activities as authorities are easing lockdown measures in several parts of the country. Public baths (hammams) and gyms will be allowed to receive clients and subscribers, provided they do not exceed 50% of their capacity.

Announced on Sunday by the ministries of Interior, Health and Industry, the decision, however, have left gym and hammam owners confused regarding the way to implement the necessary sanitary measures within their businesses.

In Casablanca, Fatima Fedouachi from the association of public bath owners in the city, said that «it is very hard to implement sanitary measures within hammams». Speaking Wednesday to Yabiladi, she said that public bath owners in the city received documents from the local authorities on how to operate once their businesses are open again.  

However, Fedouachi believes «hammams are not social distancing-friendly». «Public baths are not like cafés and restaurants, they are closed places with several practices that do not leave much room for social distancing», she argued.

While owners can safely make sure not to exceed 50% of their businesses' capacity, they assume that it is hard to monitor others things, Fedouachi indicated. «Hammams are humid places and it is hard to ask employees to wear masks inside, also it is hard to monitor clients and prevent them from socializing», she added, calling for «more realistic measures».

Meanwhile, in Taza, Abdelillah, a public bath owner, has not been advised by the authorities yet on how to operate once back to business. Planning to resume his business’s activities on Thursday, Abdelillah said that he started by disinfecting the bath and setting a couple of rules that he improvised.

«We will be asking clients to shower in little rooms we have and get ready there before stepping into the hall. Each room will be disinfected after a single usage», he explained. As for downsizing the number of clients, he stressed that the summer season is already a very low one in terms of attendance for public bath owners in the country. «We do not expect that there will be a lot of demand as the number of clients drastically decreases during the summer in general», he said.

Gymgoers and masks 

In addition to hammam owners, gyms and sports facilities have also been prepping for their comeback. In Casablanca, Marouane who owns a weightlifting gym said that he has not been informed about the ins and outs of reopening. «I cannot resume work tomorrow. Because I do not know very well what I am supposed to do, especially when it comes to wearing masks as it is not a good idea to do that while working out».

Meanwhile, Sediq who also owns a gym in the city said that he has been visited by the local authorities and had to sign a document, committing that he would respect all necessary measures. Some these measures, according to him, include wearing gloves, making sure that gymgoers come prepared, in sports attire, and prohibiting showers in the gym's premises.

«We are not quite sure about masks, but I think it is not feasible to have gymgoers wear them while working out as it can be dangerous», he argued.

Changing old habits and adapting

While trying to abide by the rules and save their businesses that had been closed for more than three months, public bath and gym owners can make it work, according to infectious diseases professor Abdelfattah Chakib.

Speaking to Yabiladi, Wednesday, he said that «implementing social distancing is a must». «If sanitary and social distancing measures are not implemented, owners will have to close their businesses again», he stressed. Customers should also reconsider their old practices, he said, referring to the tendency of going to hammams during the weekend only.

«People going to hammams, for instance, should try to bring their own utensils and cleaning devices and avoid those old practices of rubbing each other’s backs, which is doable», Chakib added. As for masks, the professor believes that employees at the reception will have to protect themselves and wear them.

«Moroccans must understand that life is not the same anymore due to Covid-19. It would take at least one year before life gets back to normal and we have to adapt to it», the medical expert said.

Indeed, faced with the pandemic and the lack of a vaccine, Moroccans will have to adapt to the current situation and change several habits that could spread contagion.

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