Question marks over clause on ‘no matches and training in hotspots’ in government directions

30 May 2020 - 14:31 By Marc Strydom
Sports, Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa with his predecessor Tokozile Xasa during an Absa Premiership match.
Sports, Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa with his predecessor Tokozile Xasa during an Absa Premiership match.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Minister of sport, arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa has laid down the directions that need to be in place for non-contact sports to resume events behind closed doors, and contact sports to resume training at level three of the national lockdown.

As can be the case with government regulations regarding the phases of the lockdown in response to Covid-19, there can be a few surprises and spanners in the works.

Mthethwa confirmed in a press conference on Saturday that non-contact sports such as golf, tennis, athletics and cricket can resume events behind closed doors at level three, which starts on Monday.

He clarified that contact sports such as football and rugby can resume fitness training, but cannot play matches.

A clause that jumps out, though, is that: “Resumption of non-contact sport training and matches in areas declared as hot spots … is prohibited.”

This would appear to continue to prohibit non-contact sports events, and contact sports training, where most professional athletes and sports teams are based in urbanised areas.

Speaking on the draft regulations, which have not yet been gazetted, Mthethwa said the directions, while continuing to minimise Covid-19, allow “professional, non-contact sports events without spectators, and professional athletes to train irrespective to whether is contact or non-contact sport, in a staggered way”.

Among the pertinent directions to allow non-contact sport to resume, and all sports to train, were:

  • Sport grounds, fields and swimming pools for non-contact sport and training for professional athletes may resume in compliance with the health protocol, without any spectators.
  • All sport bodies must within 14 days after the publication of these directions inform the minister in writing as to the date of resumption and further provide an operational guideline, including a guarantee in the form of affidavits related to the testing of all officials before resumption for training and matches.
  • All sports bodies and professional clubs must implement policies and procedures for their workforce contact tracing following employee Covid-19 tests.
  • All sports bodies and professional clubs must ensure that athletes and their support staff be subjected to quarantine pending the test results.
  • Only non-contact professional sport may resume matches after compliance with all provisions of this direction.
  • Transportation of all athletes, players and support staff must comply with transport directions issued by the minister of transport.

Under testing and screening of players and support staff:

  • Any professional athletes and support staff who test positive may not be allowed to train or participate in any training or matches.
  • All officials, including players, athletes, match support staff, journalists, and television crew, including radio commentators, must be subjected to temperature screening before they enter the venue or stadium.
  • Any person with suspected high temperature may not be allowed to enter the venue or stadium.
  • Resumption of non-contact sport training and matches in areas declared as hot spots by the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, upon recommendation by cabinet member responsible for health, and in consultation with cabinet, is prohibited.

Sanitation of the training field:

  • Stadiums, sports grounds, fields, dressing rooms and other facilities within the precinct of the stadium must be sanitised before any resumption of training and matches.
  • The chosen facility must be subjected to a thorough cleaning and disinfectant process prior to the arrival of any support staff and players following the advice issues by the health authorities and the relevant professionals.
  • The venue owner must ensure that specific areas and equipment that come into frequent contact with individuals – including but not limited to door knobs, door bars, door keypads, chairs, armrests, table tops, light switches, toilet flush and flush mechanisms water taps, elevator buttons, surfaces, gym equipment, all equipment, machines, balls, keyboards, mice, touch screen monitors, tablets, and track pads – are thoroughly cleaned even more frequently where reasonable after each contact.

Control measures:

  • All appropriate information must be displayed in prominent places within the facility.
  • There should be limits in the number of personnel in the stadium, change room, at any given time as far as reasonably possible.
  • Masks, as required by the health protocols, must be worn by all personnel entering the facilities, provided that professional athletes shall not be required to wear masks when training or participating in matches.
  • All individual prepared meals with disposal drinking bottles are allowed in the facility.
  • No person is allowed to share a water bottle with any other person.
  • The facilities, stadium, sports grounds, fields and venues must provide a proper laundry facility.
  • All doors must remain open where feasible to reduce contact and ensure adequate ventilation.
  • A dedicated isolation area for use by any individual who exhibits symptoms of Covid-19 whilst at work, or in training, must be identified.
  • Physical distancing during training must be encouraged, and observed.

Prohibited activities:

  • Massages, physiotherapy except for injured players, ice baths and saunas.

Mthethwa clarified: “Here we are for now talking about professional sport because here we have a chance and capacity to monitor. It’s not open for everybody at this stage. We are following a staggered approach in opening of matches.”