Senior Sports Reporter
FOOTBALL and other medium-and-high-risk sport codes, have been handed a huge lifeline, for a possible return to action, following a prolonged Covid-19 break.
The 29 sports associations, though, have to first satisfy conditions laid down by the World Health Organisation, their international sports bodies and the Sports Commission.
Following adjustments, to some of the health protocols that associations and athletes had to meet, such as setting up of bio-secure environment, and regular PCR testing, a window of hope has been opened for the associations that face perennial financial challenges.
Athletes can return to action, without the need for a bio-bubble and having undergone rapid tests, which range from US$10 to US$15, instead of the PCR tests, whoch go for US$65.
Already, the Government have approved 24 low-risk sport codes to resume their activities.
Speaking during a virtual press briefing yesterday, Sports Commission board member Allen Chiura, who is also the chairman of the SRC Covid-19 committee, said circumstances had changed,since the last requirements were imposed.
Chiura is a Urological Surgeon, who lived and practiced in the United States, for 30 years.
He home in 2012 to open his Urology practice, and to facilitate the training of young surgical subspecialists, at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
All the commissioners — Karen Mutasa, Nigel Munyati, Titus Zvomuya and Colleen de Jong and Gail Van Jaarsveldt — attended the meeting virtually.
“We had rather an unpleasant job of stopping people from playing sport. Now, we are in a pleasant position to try and see how we can get people back to play sport safely,’’ said Chiura.
“We make recommendations to the Ministry, we do not do any of the approvals.
“We just pass on the recommendations.
“We have just sent out today (yesterday), letters to all the medium-and-high-risk sport national associations, asking them to basically look over the protocols we have placed for their resumption, and they are hopefully going to get back those to us, to tell us they have the financial capability to follow through with these recommendations.
“And, that being the case, we would be able to resume high-risk sport, and it’s going to be in gradual phase.
“Again, we have to remember, as SRC, our job is to make sure we do not create any events that may lead to being super spreader events.
“Covid-19 is still here, despite what people may think, there is still a possibility of a third wave coming through.”
Sports Commission chairman, Gerald Mlotshwa, said the developments came after the board met with Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry, on Friday.
“We did, as a board, have a special board meeting, that was last week Friday, with our Minister, and debated the issue, relating to high risk sport, and the various codes that had obviously been itching to start,’’ he said.
“I think the position that we reached, as a board, was to address the whole medium-and-high risk category holistically, and not just deal with particular sports associations per se.
“But, to deal with all those that had actually been placed in those high-or-medium risk category, come up with protocols, regarding the same.
“We then wrote to the national associations that, from the SRC, we would be happy to allow you to resume, subject to you confirming that you have got the administrative, and financial capacity, to adhere to these various protocols.
“We are waiting for that feedback and then, hopefully by Thursday, we would be able to announce which of those high-risk category or medium-risk category sports codes, have been allowed to commence activities, and it would be phased as has been indicated.’’
He emphasised there will still be some close monitoring, even to those codes, which will get the go-ahead.
“If we are to give a go-ahead, to a particular code, they would be conditions to that phasing, because we are still in this Covid environment, we have to be careful, we have to monitor compliance and capacity,’’ he said.
“The other important thing that came out of that meeting, is what the SRC is also going to be doing, and has already started doing, lobbying Government to allow the SRC to be allocated a certain number of the vaccines that have been made available to the country.
“And, we want to be able to channel those vaccines to some of our sports codes, in order to complement the other health protocols that they have put into place, and play our role in that respect.
“But we will update you on how successful we will be, and which of those codes will then have access, to those vaccines.”
In a letter, addressed to the national associations, the Sports Commission acting director general Sebastian Garikai yesterday indicated that they have to satisfy certain conditions laid down by the regulator.
“The Sports and Recreation Commission wishes to advice that the Government, through the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, plans to resume all sport in Zimbabwe,’’ wrote Garikai.
“We believe that a medium-or-high-risk sport does not remain medium/high-risk in perpetuity but may become low risk where the degree of risk of transmission can be mitigated.
“The risk of transmission of Covid-19, where there is reasonable frequency of testing, vaccination and stringent containment protocols is low.
“The resumption of all sport shall be guided by the prevailing World Health Organisation guidelines for the prevention and containment of Covid-19.
“In this regard the SRC is sharing with your association proposed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and further proposed conditions, for the safe resumption of sport for your consideration.
“This is in addition to your own respective Covid-19 protocols, as guided by your own international federation.
“The SOPs and general conditions are attached hereto for your consideration and input.
“May you kindly respond to this consultative document by the 18th of March 2021, indicating your position regarding the proposed approach.
“Once this position is confirmed, you will be further invited to make the necessary applications for resumption.’’
The medium-risk codes are softball, weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, baseball, darts, dodgeball, korfball, pool, sailing, skateboarding, gymnasiums.
The high-risk codes are football, wrestling, boxing, basketball, volleyball, karate, taekwondo, netball, handball, judo, rugby, bodybuilding, squash, wushu, tug of war, kickboxing.