By Duncan Mlanjira
Five months after sporting activities were suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic, Ministry of Youth has released guidelines on how to tread carefully in reopening of matches, a week after Ministry of Education Science and Technology also developed its guidelines for schools and teacher training colleges.
In its introduction, the Ministry says the long suspension has created genuine fears that the standard of sports, physical fitness of players and the competence of both players and officials will drastically decline to non-recoverable levels if the suspension continues.
“Though the economic impact of sports seems minimal due to lack of research based evidence, there is huge human-power that fully relies on earnings from the sporting activities.
“The suspension of the sporting activities has therefore caused a lot of suffering to most Malawians whose survival depends on such activities.
“It is against this back ground that the Ministry of Youth and Sports proposes the re-opening of sporting activities at the beginning of September, 2020.
“However, realising that the pandemic is still among us, the Ministry has compiled some measures to be followed as sporting activities re-start so that players, officials, spectators and all stakeholders are protected.”
The report further says guidelines will come into effect on the day they will be approved by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Tuesday’s situation report by co-chairperson of Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka indicates that on four new COVID-19 cases were registered and just one new death while recoveries were at seven new.
Cumulatively, Malawi has recorded 5,423 cases including 170 deaths and of these cases, 1,094 are imported infections and 4,329 are locally transmitted.
Cumulatively, 3,066 cases have now recovered bringing the total number of active cases to 2,187.
Dr. Phuka said Tuesday’s data continues to signal towards possible successful fight against the COVID-19 following registering four cases reported while Monday had five new cases.
“It is, however, important to note that the tests today were only a third of tests done yesterday. In any case, today’s detection is the lowest number of cases since June.
“This is a signal in the right direction, but I continue to caution — let us not be too excited yet. As our testing is going down, we are reviewing the factors influencing our testing other that the testing protocol of only testing those with symptoms.”
He applauded all those who are practising prevention measures, saying this is particularly important as the country plan to open the economy through preparations to open airports and reopen schools.
It is through such careful plans by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that the Ministry of Sports has developed the guidelines will apply to all types and levels of sport events and all the people involved in the organization and management of sport events.
Amongst the guidelines, organizers of sporting events should make sure that they understand the COVID-19 preventive measures related to the events they intend to organize before they organize the event (game or meeting).
“It should be noted that the responsibility of COVID-19 prevention during the event lies in the hands of the event organisers, with support from law-enforcers, healthy personnel and other key stakeholders to involve.”
The organizers should incorporate preventive measures into their event plan at all levels of the event management and should submit, at least a month before the date of the event, their event plan to Malawi National Council of Sports, through the respective Sports Association, where applicable, for approval to organize the event.
The other guidelines are:
* All sports personnel and stakeholders with COVID-19 symptoms should not be allowed to participate in sporting activities until they are treated and are fully recovered;
* All sporting activities should start with players training for a period of six weeks to gain fitness in order to prevent injuries and deaths;
* Training should be done only in the presence of registered with the Medical Council of Malawi, who will be checking temperatures and general health of all players and officials.
* All training balls and equipment must be disinfected before use.
* Organisers to provide hand washing water before and after training.
* Organizers to conduct independent audit inspection at every training ground to ensure compliance before being audited by Law enforcers who will impose sanctions for noncompliance.
* All facilities at the venue should be cleaned and disinfected a day before the event e.g. dressing rooms, toilets, medical rooms, seats where possible, and all equipment.
* For games or competitions, all entrances into the sport facilities should have: hand washing facilities(water and soap) and sanitizers and Infrared thermometer for checking body temperature.
In order to maintain social distance, measures to be followed are:
a. Increasing gate charges;
b. Printing tickets half of the capacity of the venue;
c. Pre-selling tickets and not at the venue;
d. Early opening of gates;
e. All media personnel to be accredited by organizers and to control numbers;
The guidelines is asking organisers to avoid hosting and participating in international sports events until the situation normalizes.