Virgin Active has closed its Melrose Arch branch until further notice, after one of its members tested positive for the coronavirus.

The club said that it has initiated a sanitisation process after discovering the exposure. The member attended the gym on 13 March, it said, adding that it recommends any other members who attended gym that day seek medical advice if they start displaying any coronavirus symptoms.

All of its other clubs remain open and fully operational, it said.

Unlike many other businesses and areas where people gather in groups, Virgin Active has opted to stay open during the state of disaster.

“President Ramaphosa has called on all businesses such as the management of malls, entertainment centres and other places frequented by large numbers of people to bolster their hygiene control.

“We are committed to this and have stringent measures in place in answer to the President’s mandate and to ensure business continuity,” the group said.

It said it uses hospital-grade disinfectant, and has ramped up cleaning protocols in a bid to decrease risk of infection. To meet requirements for smaller groups, it has decreased the capacity of its exercise classes.

While businesses like Virgin Active are not yet being forced to close down during the crisis, messaging from government has greatly encouraged South Africans to apply social distancing practices – imploring citizens to take control of their risk of exposure by decreasing contact with others.

Among government’s recommendations around social distancing, it is encouraging South Africans to avoid places like gyms, malls and movie theatres – even if they are open for business.

Social distancing remains, for now, a recommendation, not a law – but should precautions fail to a point that a state of emergency must be declared, South Africa could follow in the footsteps of countries like France and Italy where any public gatherings are shut down.

Government has now gazetted new regulations giving effect to the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people, as well as empowering authorities to take legal action against those who deliberately expose others to the virus.

As of 18 march, 116 cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in South Africa, with the number expected to grow.

Read: Social distancing: what South Africa’s government wants you to avoid, and what is safe to do