“Sport must be ready to return to normal.”
That was the opening statement of Uganda Olympic Committee president William Blick, on Saturday as members of the body discussed Wellness and Health in Sports during and post Covid-19.
Athletes – who are the main stakeholders in sports – have hardly participated in these virtual discussions on how sport can cope with this pandemic.
From the look of things, athletes will have to find this information from third parties like coaches or administrators who participate in these debates or get hit with realities of the new normal when they finally come out of lockdown.
But retired body builder Robert Ssebugwawo warned there is a need to create a team that will “work remotely engage athletes to get the information.”
“Athletes have to know right away that beating this pandemic will require their discipline and consistency in following guidelines,” Ssebugwawo said before going on to offer himself to serve on the team.
“That should help them meet at least 80 per cent of what they should do to keep safe.”
For now, National Council of Sports (NCS) – according to general secretary Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel – has constituted an eight-man committee chaired by NCS board member Dr George Galiwango, which started this week to “formulate standard operating procedures that will determine whether sports will come back or not.”
The sports federations have also been urged to make and share specific ways forward that they would wish to proceed post lockdown depending on whether their disciplines are contact to non-contact.
The SOPs should be in line with existing guidelines offered by Ministry of Health and World Health Organization in the bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The general secretary of Zimbabwe Olympic Committee Ann Muguni was on the call to share the experiences in her country.
“We agreed that there is no textbook formula to follow in developing SOPs so we had to discuss in collaboration with the ministries of sport and health, Paralympic Committee and medical assistants.
And while there is a huge focus on testing, we are also trying to educate everyone on what to do,” Muguni shared.
Zimbabwe do not know when they will resume but there is a general acceptability that those involved in physical and fitness exercises like sports are at low risk of suffering fatalities when they contract Covid-19.
Their federations, however, will only hold events in consultation with their sports ministry and their sports disciplines have been categorised as either low or high risk. “The low risk disciplines are those where physical distancing is practical and athletes do not need to share equipment.”
Some of the SOPs agreed upon in Zimbabwe include; disinfecting facilities and equipment after training and events, no sharing of equipment, washing hands, sanitizing, no spectators during training, mandatory testing, registration logbooks for clubs, putting up isolation rooms at facilities, and sell of alcohol and cigarettes is prohibited at training and events.
High risk groups like the elderly are also not allowed to attend sports events while athletes have to be dropped and picked up at a park before and after training.
NCS is additionally proposing registration of fans for easy tracing if required and providence of disposable bins at venues among others.
Dr. Galiwango warned that when sport resumes, there will be “changes in how,” for example, “injured players are managed.”
“Athletes will be first tested for Covid-19 to determine if they can come to the clinics. There will be a reduction to face-to-face interaction by about 60 percent if the lockdown stays as is,” he said.
WORKING COMMITTE TO FORMULATE SPORTS SOPS
*Dr. George Galiwango – NCS Board Member (Chairperson)
*Dr. Nana Nakiddu – Head UOC Medical Commission
*Cecilia Anyakoit – Head NCS Technical Committee
*Beatrice Ayikoru – UOC VP/ GS Uganda Athletics Federation
*Moses Matsiko – President Uganda Golf Union
*Nasser Sserunjogi – Head Fuba
*Ganzi Mugula – Head Athletics Commission
*Joshua Cheptegei – Athlete