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Test advice goes out a month after major sports events

Kim Wilson, Minister of Health (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A recommendation that people involved with three international sporting events get tested for the coronavirus has been issued – almost a month after the events were held.

David Kendell, the director of the Department of Health, wrote in a November 27 letter that the Ministry of Health recommended tests for volunteers, staff and spectators that "may have been within 6ft of travellers or persons outside of your home for 15 minutes or more” at the PGA Bermuda Championship, the sailing Gold Cup and the rugby World Tens Series.

The golf tournament was between October 26 and November 1, the sailing from October 26 to October 30 and the rugby from October 24 until November 7.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, has said the incubation period for Covid-19 is up to 14 days.

PGA Bermuda Championship director Sean Sovacool said the letter might seem “misplaced” after so much time had passed, but was probably sparked by the recent increase in Covid-19 cases.

Mr Sovacool added: “It seems a little odd but in light of everything going on on island that was their way of being ultra-careful.”

He said the organisers of the PGA event were happy to send the request to more than 500 volunteers because the Government was so “exceptional” in ensuring the four-day tournament was safe and successful.

Mr Sovacool added: “We are beyond the 14 days incubation. We just did what the Government asked us to do. The Government was so good to us on the front end of this.”

More than 1,100 tests were carried out at the golf tournament and all were clear.

That included testing more than 132 players, some as many as three times and 132 caddies twice.

PGA Tour and staff officials were tested three or four times each, all Golf Channel staff were tested twice and every Pro-Am player was also tested.

There was also extensive testing of participants, officials and staff at the sailing and rugby.

Jennifer McCarron, whose mother volunteered at the golf, said the letter was attached to an e-mail sent on Monday (November 30) – 29 days after the PGA event ended.

She said: “We did not receive the email until Monday at 4pm and there was no follow up phone call at any time since the start of the tournament to the completion.

“We thought it was very strange as the PGA ended November 1 and they are making contact with people through an e-mail a month later.

“How exactly does the health ministry do their contact tracing a month later?”

She added: “My mother – a senior – volunteered for the first day at the 18th hole.

“The only testing done was at the security gate, where temperatures were taken. That was it.”

Ms McCarron said: “There was no Covid-19 swab testing prior or after, nor mentioned by written or verbal, only through this e-mail that was received.”

She claimed the belated letter eroded “people’s trust in what is being disclosed to them“.

Two other PGA volunteers told The Royal Gazette they were not required to take a test during the event but had since received the same e-mail.

Mr Kendell wrote in the letter to PGA volunteers: “During … October, Bermuda had an increase in the number of visitors.

“This is related to recent sporting events/tournaments such as the sailing Gold Cup, the PGA golf tournament and rugby.

“Bermuda is using a rigorous testing regimen to prevent an increase in the number of cases and/or community transmission of Covid-19.

“It is to this end that the Ministry of Health is recommending that you … please get tested for the Covid-19 virus post event.”

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said: “The letter was sent to all three events and we are in correspondence with other settings about regular testing.”

She added: “The letter was sent to raise awareness and facilitate access among volunteers, staff and participants who had close interactions with visiting teams and would be departing before the end of the two week stay.”

The spokeswoman said: “The Minister announced in a press conference after the events that volunteers, staff and participants should test.

“The letter was sent subsequent to follow up.”

There was no additional response to a request for further explanation.

The spokeswoman said it was not believed the events contributed to the spike in cases.

She added: “All close, human contact increases the risk of spread of the virus.

“We continue to encourage everyone to practise the three Cs, including avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings.

“We do not believe at this time it is directly related to the ongoing outbreak.”

A Bermuda Tourism Authority spokeswoman said the golf event was the first PGA Tour event with live spectators since the spring.

She added: “The Bermuda Championship demonstrated how BTA could work alongside the Government, health professionals, vendors, event organisers and participants for a safe and successful event.”

The Gold Cup and World Tens Series organisers could not be contacted yesterday.

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Published December 04, 2020 at 9:22 am (Updated December 04, 2020 at 9:21 am)

Test advice goes out a month after major sports events

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