It is expected that sports will continue to be played in Barbados even if a second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hits the island. The reality, COVID-19 czar Richard Carter says, is that Barbadian citizens must learn to live with the virus.
Speaking last evening during a session organised by the Barbados Volleyball Association and attended by representatives of various national associations and federations, Carter spoke about the expectations for restarting sporting activity and shared guidelines on what was required.
“We have to live with COVID-19 because until there is a readily available universal vaccine. So note I did not say just a vaccine because there are vaccine trials going on right now and that sample production of vaccine is not going to meet the challenge of availability and universal availability. We will get other COVID-19 cases, it is virtually impossible for us to go for another year without us having no COVID-19 cases. Barbados has tremendous capacity to manage any new incidents of COVID in the country by virtue of both its health infrastructure, the personnel, as well as the other things that are required to manage it,” he said.
Sharing the four elements for a safe return to sport, Carter explained the need to plan, prepare, respond, and recover. He said that implementing plans, processes, and systems were needed to meet Government health requirements and provide a safe sporting environment even before any sporting activity could restart.
The second aspect was to prepare even before the actual event which meant ensuring that the sport facility was safe and that participants practised things like good hygiene. An attendance register should be provided at venues and there should be no sharing of equipment. Carter said providing a register was especially important because it allowed for contact tracing.
He said that associations needed to be prepared for managing a COVID-19 outbreak as things could change quickly. Finally, the fourth element was recovery that allowed for good healthy participation going forward.
Carter also gave an insight into the most recent COVID-19 directive which came out on Wednesday, July 1. This stated that every person was allowed to host or attend a recreational or sporting event which should be attended by no more than 500 spectators. According to the czar, special permission had to be granted by the Chief Medical Officer for more than 500 persons.
In the previous directives, sports were not allowed and attendance was not permitted but with this most recent directive which runs until August 31, that has changed. He added: “Sporting events are permitted to have spectators, it said so in the directive. There shall be a physical distance of at least one meter between every person attending the event unless persons are members of the same household.
“All spectators attending sports and competitive events shall wear a face mask, all spectators. Now again this is the language straight from the directive. The directive has the force of law, it has been passed into statute. It means, therefore, breaching any one of these directives is breaching the law. In fact, at the end of the directive, it says any person who fails to comply is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of BDS$50, 000 or imprisonment for one year or both.”
Carter made the point that these protocols had not been designed to punish or suppress anybody. But rather were put in place to mitigate the risk that was associated with many of the activities. He noted that there have been documented cases of COVID-19 that resulted through sporting activity and contact.
According to Carter, the Ministry of Health and Wellness in designing the protocol for local sports, used recommendations from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). While sharing the guidelines with those present during the session yesterday, Carter explained that based on the suggestion given by AIS, it was the responsibility of the national associations to apply appropriate restrictions and regulations in preparation for any outbreaks at the facility during competition.
Based on AIS suggestions, things such as the health and safety of members, participants, coaches, officials, administrators, volunteers, visitors, family and the broader community should be the number one priority. For persons who have expressed concerns about the relaxation of protocols in Barbados, Carter responded that the health of the population remained paramount for the Government.
He made the point that facilities needed to be assessed and appropriate plans developed to accommodate hygiene protocols. Carter explained that it was the responsibility incumbent on every national association to assess their facility and to ensure that the appropriate plans were developed to accommodate the upgraded hygiene protocols for COVID-19.
Training cannot resume until arrangements for sports operation and facility operations are finalised and approved if necessary. Using facilities such as the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium as an example, Carter noted that the management needed to ensure that the operations were properly finalised and approved concerning how sports would be conducted going forward. He said that at every phase the associations had to take into consideration all Government restrictions and recommendations.
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