NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 24 – The Ministry of Sports says it will explore ways to partner with the counterparts from Health to help sports teams undertake COVID-19 tests that have been made mandatory for any teams to get back to action after the pandemic halted all activities in March.
The Ministry on Monday morning unveiled laid out protocols that will help ease the return of sports, though the expected dates are yet to be specified. Among the mandatory protocols is testing for all players, coaches, backroom staff and stadium personnel before they can even return to training.
With sports in the country lacking in financial muscles, federations and stakeholders have raised the issue of the cost of testing as one that might be a challenge for them and who will finance the same.
Chief Administrative Secretary Noor Hassan who chaired the advisory committee however said talks will be done with Afya House to see how they could help.
A COVID-19 test ranges from between Sh2,000 at the cheapest to Sh10,000 as the most expensive per person. The certificate issued after the test lasts for 14 days.
-Six steps for resumption of sports
Six steps have been set out for a return to contact, non-contact and water sports. For contact sports, the protocol will start with testing for all players and team personnel, thereafter, individual training will be allowed for a maximum of six people per session.
Once step two is satisfactory, teams will ease into step three which will allow up to a maximum of 10 people in training while skill drills and tactical drills will be allowed with no close contact. Indoor activities will be allowed for up to 4 people only.
Step four and five will then allow for a near full return to training with a maximum of 30 persons allowed per session and this includes both players and technical staff. Once these two steps are satisfied, then it will open up for a full return of training and competition.
This, however, will be subject to basis by basis approval by the Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.
On when fans can be allowed back to stadia, the document states that; “Spectators will not be allowed into the playing fields unless all protocols have been achieved to level 6 of the guidelines for every sport discipline.”
Football, netball, basketball and handball have all been classed as low risk sports while Boxing, judo, Karate and rugby have all been classed as high risk which will require more stringent procedures before being allowed back.
Borrowing from the practice that has been implemented in other parts of the continent and several leagues abroad which have resumed, this might mean that the first step in the return of training which is testing might be concluded by early next month while training in small groups might resume mid next month.
-Three to four days of testing
Three or four days are set aside for testing while individual training can go on for seven days before a step up to group training.
Stakeholders will have up to next week Monday to make their written responses after which the ministry will compile everything, amend where necessary and roll out the program.
If this happens by at least a week later, then individual training might be given a go ahead from September 10. If this happens, group training of 10 might be allowed to start from September 17 before the numbers are increased a week later, September 24.
With some teams requiring at least a month of pre-season training, competitions might be given a go ahead to resume by probably mid or end of October.
The protocols have heavily borrowed on guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization as well as what other countries who have resumed sporting activities have implemented.
On competition days, there will be no press conferences allowed for the media and only flash interviews will be conducted. Competitors and personnel who are not competing will also be required to wear masks at all times while in the competition vicinity.
-Constant cleaning and disinfection
There will also be constant cleaning of objects and equipment. Where practical, it should be mandatory that cleaning and disinfection be carried out before, between use and after use. Guardrails and gates will also be no exception in the disinfection exercise.
Each competition venue must also have isolation, quarantine and medical rooms in the event of COVID-19 positive contact and there should be clear records of all the ins and outs of the venue for easier contact tracing.
The report also recommends that properly equipped and manned ambulances be stationed at the venue. All such ambulances to have adequate PPE.
On competition days, swapping of clothing, embracing and handshakes are also prohibited while everyone entering the venue will be subjected to temperature checks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to give an update on the existing containment measures on Thursday and this will also play a key role in whether or not the Ministry’s guidelines will come into force.