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Sport returns to Stage 1 of Return to Play protocols

Devonshire Cougars receive the Dudley Eve Trophy from David Burt, the Premier, last November. This year’s tournament has been cancelled for the first time and now the start of the season could be delayed further owing to a recent spike in Covid-19 cases (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

The usual smooth transition from cricket to football will not happen this month as a return to Stage 1 of the Return to Play guidance announced yesterday by the Government will delay the start of the football season and also affect other sporting events.

Ernest Peets, the sports minister, announced yesterday that protocols that were first put in place last December will come into effect immediately as a result of a significant rise in Covid-19 cases.

The Government announced yesterday that Covid-related deaths had increased to 37. There are also now 1,083 active cases with 42 in hospital, 11 in intensive care.

The recent spike forced the postponement of two rounds of Twenty20 First Division cricket last weekend, before the Bermuda Cricket Board announced on Tuesday night that the season would be ending early as a precaution.

The Evening Cricket League has postponed its season-ending knockout because of the surge in coronavirus cases.

"We might try to play the games before the start of next season," a league spokesman said. "Nothing is firm yet."

The Associates, knockout winners for the past two seasons, were due to face De Wicketest on Saturday, while West XI were set to take on CV Chargers in opening-round matches.

Football has already been impacted with the season-opening Charity Cup and Dudley Eve Trophy already cancelled for this season. Attempts to get comment from the Bermuda Football Association were not successful yesterday, although it now looks certain the start of the 2021-22 season will be delayed even further as new restrictions are put in place.

“While we appreciate the importance of sport to our community and its health benefits for the population, at this time group activities need to be discouraged,” Peets said in a statement.

“Therefore a decision has been made to roll back sport to Stage 1 of the Return to Sport Guidance.”

Stage 1 allows for:

• The maximum group size of 20 permitted for training (as of Friday)

• No contact

• No fans

• Physical-distancing requirements

Peets accepts that other sports could also be impacted by the new restrictions.

“We understand the social, cultural, psychological and economic benefit of such events, however, given the country’s current coronavirus concerns, the ministry will be applying more strict criteria in considering events,” he said.

“This is to ensure that risk can be minimised while allowing events of material cultural and economic significance to take place safely. So, effective immediately, indoor events will not be supported and the need for large gatherings to occur will be assessed with increased scrutiny."

The sports minister added: “While the new criteria will not be retroactive in their entirety, we will be reviewing all previously approved events within the next month to consider any risks and mitigations necessary, and contacting any organisers affected. Curtailing sports attendance and training protocols and reducing the number of large-group exemptions are measures that will help contain the current outbreak, so it is necessary to assist in reversing the trend.

“Lastly, I want to stress that it brings us absolutely no joy at all to place further limits on the activities we can engage in. However we must ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all. We are experiencing a significant community spread of the Delta variant, and as the Government we must do all that we can to protect lives and protect our healthcare resources.”

Another sport affected this weekend is cycling whose Bermuda Cycling Academy Road Race, set for Sunday, has been called off.

“One of the critical things is the number of participants permitted, that’s really what is going to drive our organised cycling events,” said Peter Dunne, president of the Bermuda Bicycle Association.

“There’s no way we can have a race this weekend, so everything is back in pause at the moment. We’re still going to follow the rules that the Government has put in place, but we’re still outdoors and we’re very separated.

“It’s shocking to me how we’ve gotten to this point again...again...again. It’s clear that a third of the population isn’t working towards the safety of the population, with about 65 per cent vaccinated.”

In last week’s BBA newsletter, Dunne warned members of new restrictions coming into effect because of the spike in cases, while also emphasising the need to be vaccinated.

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but with the latest surge in Covid cases in Bermuda and a vaccination rate that is stuck in the mid-60s, we are beginning to see more restrictions on how events are to be managed,” he wrote.

“Thankfully, as an outdoor activity, cycling is subject to less restrictive rules. But, with immediate effect, we will need to be very tight on how many people are at any event organised under the BBA's authority.

“We are working with event organisers to make sure that we are fully compliant with the government rules.

“If you are looking for an easy solution, get vaccinated and then convince someone else to get vaccinated. This way you take care of yourself and take care of the community; The proverbial win-win scenario."

The start of the BNAA cross-country series on September 25 is another event that is now likely to be affected.

Depending on how long the restrictions are in place, it could affect the preparation of international events such as the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships, involving Bermuda’s Olympic gold medal-winner, Flora Duffy, on the weekend of October 15 to 17.

The Butterfield Bermuda Golf Championship is planned for October 28 to 31, catering to a field that has been increased from 120 to 132 participants And only recently the World Rugby Classic was confirmed to return to Bermuda in November as a SafeKey event, after being cancelled last year for the first time in its 32 years.

UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that the maximum number for gathering will be 20 as of September 17 and not ten

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Published September 16, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated September 17, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Sport returns to Stage 1 of Return to Play protocols

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