Professional sport to begin training, matches

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Sporting bodies and clubs will have to observe stringent measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when professional non-contact sport training and activities resume on 1 June when lockdown level 3 begins.

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa made the announcement at a briefing to outline the draft regulations that will guide the resumption of sporting activities in level 3 of the lockdown.

While non-contact activities are permitted for both training and sporting events, contact sport athletes are only allowed to train during this alert level.

The approach is part of government’s attempt to reopen the sector in a staggered and manageable approach, said Mthethwa. Resumption of non-contact training or matches is also prohibited in areas declared as hotspots.

Non-contact sporting events, said the Minister, will proceed without any spectators in attendance, and strict health and safety protocols observed.

Sporting events have been bared in South Africa since the lockdown came into effect on 27 March.

“All sporting, arts, cultural and religious events organised or held at a stadium or venue... are prohibited,” said Mthethwa.

Exempted from the regulations are religious gatherings at faith-based institutions, where there are no more than 50 people in attendance.

“[Also not] affected is professional contact sport for the purpose of preparing for multi-coded sporting events [such as] international championships, national championships, local leagues at club and provincial level - excluding combat sport - until the Minister directs otherwise, or the National State of Disaster terminates, whichever comes first,” said Mthethwa.

The resumption of non-contact sport events and training is limited to sport grounds, fields and pools, albeit in compliance with health protocols.

Monitoring protocol

Sporting bodies and clubs are expected to, within 14 days, inform the Minister of the dates of resumption, as well as an operational guideline that will include an affidavit for the testing of officials before the resumption of training and matches.

“All professional bodies and clubs must also develop guideline procedures for their staff contact tracing following a COVID-19 test. The bodies are also expected to ensure that athletes and support staff are subjected to quarantine, pending results.

“Only determined non-contact professional sport may resume matches after compliance with all provisions of these directions. Here, we are only dealing with professional sport because we have a chance and opportunity to monitor compliance," said Mthethwa.

The bodies and clubs will also have to ensure that the transportation of athletes and officials is in compliance with the Department of Transport’s lockdown regulations.

Officials and athletes, who test COVID-19 positive, may not participate in training or matches.

Additionally, journalists, commentators and broadcast crews will be subjected to temperature screening at venues before being granted access.

Mthethwa said the management of sporting venues has to disinfect and sanitise facilities before any matches take place.

Also prohibited during this period are massages, physiotherapy (except for injured players), ice baths and sonars.  

Additionally, protective gear is to be worn at all times, expect for playing staff when training and playing.

Physical and social distancing in training must be encouraged and observed.

“Only disposable food containers and water bottles are allowed. No sharing. Facilities must provide proper laundry facilities, [while] doors are to remain open at all times,” said Mthethwa.

The regulations also direct clubs to provide isolation facilities for persons exhibiting symptoms. Physical social distancing in training must be encouraged and observed.

For monitoring, the Minister said clubs and bodies must ensure that players provide written assurances that they are, too the best of their knowledge, COVID-19 free, have not had symptoms in the 14 days prior to the resumption of training, and have not been in contact with confirmed or suspected cases.

“Team medical staff must take preventative measures, using protective gear, when dealing with confirmed cases,” said the Minister. – SAnews.gov.za

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