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Sports minister Ernest Peets rolls out cautious return

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Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport Ernest Peets (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Covid-19 guidelines for sport are being revised to better reflect the present situation on the island.

Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, said the changes were necessary as the original return to play guidelines were implemented before vaccines and antigen testing came online.

He said the ministry is working with the island’s various national sports governing bodies to create the new guidelines which he hopes will be rolled out early next month.

“As most of you know, the government and I personally, we’re really fully committed to sport and we’re doing everything we possibly can to allow both local and international activities to resume safely,” the sports minister said at a press conference yesterday.

“Local sport in particular is extremely important to our social, physical and mental well being as well as our national aspirations regarding sport.

“We recognise this and we strive to benefit as well as balance the need of sport and to keep the population safe throughout this pandemic.

“We understand that Covid-19 has disrupted recreation and competitive sports and we appreciate everyone’s patience and collaboration as we chart our way forward to keep our community safe and our economy open.

“The Return to Play guidance was put in place originally last year before vaccination and antigen testing were available. Accordingly the stages of guidance has been updated to incorporate these new developments.

“We are in active dialogue I can report with the association of national sports governing bodies to create a new return to sport guidance document that better reflects our current situation. And we hope to release this new document and new guidance in early November.

“Until that time the return to play guidance remains in effect and I am pleased to announce that effective on Saturday, October 30, we’re moving sport to stage 4b which includes full competition and spectators.”

The minister emphasised that public health regulations place a limit for group sizes on sports which stands at 20 persons.

However, he said national sports governing bodies can apply for a large-group exemption for the season, while the online application allows organisers to apply for multiple-date events.

“I must remind the public that the public health Covid-19 emergency powers phase reopening regulations 20-21 require all large group exemptions to use SafeKey,” Peets added. “This means that any group above the permitted group size must use SafeKey for all athletes, officials and spectators.

“I appreciate the difficulty this can place on some of our sporting groups particularly for children under 12. However, I must remind everyone that vaccinations are free and is available for everyone over the age of 12 and provides a SafeKey for all such events. As such I encourage our athletes and our sports enthusiasts to get vaccinated.”

Peets said that return to sport guidance requires antigen or lateral flow testing for athletes and officials. However, he said this is a separate situation from the Government’s SafeKey requirements for large groups.

He added that vaccinated persons must have a negative antigen or lateral flow test before competing while unvaccinated persons must have a negative antigen test or lateral flow test taken twice per week.

He said persons already participating in school or perhaps work based antigen test programs will have those tests recognised for sports participation.

“I appreciate everyone’s collaboration to get us over the line and out of this current outbreak,” the sports minister added. “Our numbers have much improved but we’re not out of the woods yet so the return to sports guidance remains necessary.

“As competition resumes and as spectators return please do so safely. Continue to practise all of you Covid regulations precautions during your training events as well as your competition events.

“Sport is an important outlet for stress, anxiety and highly valuable for our overall well being and we want to see sport to continue without disruption.

“I know you all share the concern for safety first. And as responsible citizens as well as sports people I know you will do everything possible to follow these rules to keep yourselves, your families and our community safe.”

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Published October 28, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated October 28, 2021 at 8:18 am)

Sports minister Ernest Peets rolls out cautious return

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