Gym owners and trainers hold banners as they stage a protest on the outskirts of Amritsar demanding that the government allow them to open their fitness centres, after it eased a nationwide lockdown.  Photo: AFP

Gym owners and trainers in several Indian cities held protests over the weekend against a ban on opening fitness centres over fears of spreading the coronavirus, even as many lockdown restrictions are set to ease.

The nation of 1.3 billion people will allow shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and places of worship to re-open Monday, more than 10 weeks after a nationwide shutdown was imposed in late March.

But gyms will remain closed, to the frustration of owners and trainers in several cities, including Amritsar in northern Punjab state.

“We are running in losses for last three months and there is no clarity when the government plans to open the gyms,” Amritsar Gym Owners Association’s president, Dharminder Verma, told AFP on Sunday.

Gym owners were still paying rent and staff salaries despite being shut, Verma said.

Similar protests were held in neighboring Ludhiana district on Saturday, where topless bodybuilders did push-ups and flexed their pumped-up muscles.

The easing restrictions come as India records a rising number of new daily virus cases. The South Asian country has reported almost 250,000 cases so far including nearly 7,000 deaths.

India’s economy – Asia’s third-biggest and already stuttering before the pandemic -– has been badly hit by the lockdown.

The government has sought to revive growth by gradually reopening most sectors of the economy over the past few weeks.

About one-third of domestic flights, limited interstate trains and buses have resumed. Offices and factories have also been allowed to reopen.

Tens of millions of Indians lost their jobs during the lockdown, including millions of migrant workers, many of whom fled cities back to their hometowns or villages, some on foot.