Sporting activities set to return under strict guidelines

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 00:00 |
AFC Leopards fans. Photo/PD/FILE

The government yesterday issued strict guidelines for the resumption of sports activities in the country, signalling a gradual return to normalcy.

 Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor outlined the protocols to be enforced for sporting activities to resume during a multi-stakeholder virtual meeting chaired by the Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, including a ban on spectators.

 “The guidelines for resumption of sporting activities during the Covid-19 pandemic presents the State Department of Sports’ approach to opening up and supporting the sporting industry even as the country tries to live with and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed the guidelines provided by the State Department also continues to deliver on its mandate guided by the Ministerial Strategic Plan, Kenya Vision 2030 and Medium term Plans,” said Noor.

 The guidelines come barely two weeks after the government eased some of the restrictions imposed on places of worship, including allowing religious institutions to accommodate 150 congregants, up from the previous 100, an indication that the government was gradually opening up the country after months of restrictions to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the regulations, especially in the sporting sector are near tricky and are likely to be costly and difficult for all stakeholders involved as the government leaves nothing to chance to avert a rise in the cases which have already hit over 32, 000 mark.

 The Advisory Committee set up by Amina in June consisting various stakeholders from sporting federations, government and health sector had the mandate of coming up with a workable formula that would benefit sports people.

 The video link session saw stakeholders airing concerns particularly on testing and safety. 

In her opening remarks, Amina pointed out that the document was not final and adjustments could be done once a seven-day public participation exercise was done. 

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed (top left) with Athletics Kenya officials and runners from Team Cheruiyot during the Impossible Games at the Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi, on June 11, 2020. Photo/PD/FILE

“The Advisory Committee has already done its bit in regards to a roadmap and indeed built guidelines.

The group undertook diligent exercise in close consensus with the Ministry of Health and for that I am happy. We all are looking forward to resumption but it has to be done with safety in mind.

We engaged all stakeholders and we look forward to getting more feedback so that we are well guided on rolling out the sports calendar,” said Amina. 

 Dr Walter Ngatia seconded from the Ministry of Health told of the importance of critical measures to avoid contamination.

“Domestic guidelines have to be merged with international bodies but of course the key issue is safety. For instance we will not expect handshakes and uniforms exchange when sports resume.

Venue preparedness inwards and externally is also important and at the same time identification of response teams and health checks plus screening is mandatory. 

“We have to follow the laid out protocols for thorough implementation and enforcement. Issues like sanitising changing rooms and access to secured areas must be limited to avoid any spread.

At the same time designation of drop offs and pick off for visitors, athletes and officials have to be controlled because the nature of the disease is that it thrives in crowded places.

We suggest that swimming pools and saunas remain closed because of their vulnerability,” he stated.

 The protocals, which attract punishment when defaulted, come at a time Kenya continues to lay groundwork for resumption of play, with Nairobi set to host the World Athletics Continental Tour meeting in October at the refurbished Nyayo National Stadium and the Magical Kenya Open Golf Championships from November 12 to 15 at the Karen Country Club.

 Sports activities had stalled in the country since March leading to the postponement of three major global sports events.

 General guidelines posted include respective sports organisations ensuring dissemination of information on Covid-19 as released by Ministry of Health to athletes, athlete support personnel, officials, staff and volunteers.

 All organisers and venue operators should appoint Covid-19 contact persons (preferably sports officers) and response teams; ensuring availability of hand washing facilities, sanitisers and thermometers at the training and competition sites.

Former Kenya Rugby Union Under-19 coach Paul Odera who also trains private schools has expressed concern about  conditional tests and asked for clarity on whether the same rules would apply for schools that use Ministry of Education guidelines. 

Peter Ong’ondo, a former national team cricketer, urged for a speed up of resumption so that the national team can go back to train.

He also called for easier and cheap Government assisted testing kits because the current proposal was expensive.

“Government must really find a method to help sports return smoothly and coordinate all angles. For starters tests should be simplified.”

 Shirley Maina of Otter Swimming Club was dissatisfied with the shutting of outdoor pools yet they were not high risk.

“Swimmers can always be distant so we so no need of exempting us from competitions. Internationally swimmers are already up and about,” she said. 

Beatrice Wanzala, the Secretary General, Athletics Kenya,Coast branch,  has urged Government to put up a training camp for sprinters since there are qualified coaches and good athletes. 

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