When declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) implored the countries of the world to seek to “strike a balance between protecting health, minimising economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused significant disruption to the sporting sector.
The government had to consider whether particular sectors of the economy should be permitted to re-open and on what basis. These include the risk of transmission while considering the ease of implementing mitigation measures, the expected impact on the sector of continued lockdown and value of the sector to the economy.
On 11 June 2020, details of the Directions for Sport, Arts and Culture under the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002 were gazetted. The published Directions focused primarily on sectoral implications concerning the Government Level 3 Risk adjustment strategy to be employed in preventing and combating the spread of COVID- 19.
The Directions require that sports bodies must comply with the following before the resumption of either training or matches for contact and non – contact sport:
Sports bodies must apply in writing to Minister informing him on the date of the resumption of playing and training, included in their plan all compliance matters as outlined in the Directions.
Sports bodies in their plan submitted to Minister must take into account the following: –
- The testing of athletes;
- The waiting period of the results;
- Cleaning and disinfection of the sporting venues;
- Appointment of a compliance officer;
- Preparation of the register;
- Procurement of the screening equipment;
- Development of transportation plan;
- Procurement of sanitisers and mask;
- Planning around the issue of catering;
- Development of training methodology;
- Names and sporting venues to be utilised;
- Any alternative venue whereby the previous venues or area have been declared a hotspot; and
- Identification of isolation area;
Sports bodies are expected to submit their plan within 14 days after publication of the Directions.
Upon receipt of the plans, as required by the Directions, the Minister must apply his mind as to whether the sports bodies have complied with all requirements as proclaimed in the Directions. During the period of processing the plan, no sports body is allowed to resume training or playing.
Furthermore, in processing the plans, the Minister may consult with the Department of Health, relative to compliance with health protocol including, amongst others, pronouncement of the hotspot area as to whether it is feasible to resume matches or training in such area, and the levels of risk thereto.
The Minister shall approve the application based on the recommendation of the appointed team and relevant sports body will be informed of the decision of the Minister in writing.
If the sports body resumes training or matches either contact or non-contact without the approval of the Minister, it is tantamount to a violation of the Direction and Regulations. Any necessary or punitive measure will be taken against such sports body in terms of the Regulations.
The Department shall deploy officials to monitor compliance with the Directions and such officials shall be given special identity document.
Currently, there are sport bodies which have sent their plans and are being considered by the Department, together with the NICD (National Institute of Communicable diseases, an institute of the Department of Health).
The Department sincerely appreciates the co-operation from sports bodies in fighting the spread of COVID 19 and we hope to work closely in ensuring that the sector is not responsible for increasing the spread of COVID -19.