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Peets relaxes SafeKey requirement for cricket

Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport (Photograph my Sekou Hendrickson)

Cricket match organisers will only have to adhere to Covid-19 SafeKey requirements if there are more than 275 people at a match at any one time, the Sports Minister confirmed yesterday.

The decision to lift the SafeKey requirement from 51 to 275 came after it was discovered that a large percentage of the players in the opening round of cricket matches last weekend did not adhere to SafeKey protocol.

The Royal Gazette’s report that Minister Ernest Peets had told cricket clubs that he would lift the SafeKey requirement was assailed earlier yesterday by the Opposition, who said the government was sending out mixed messages on crowd sizes.

In an exclusive interview with The Royal Gazette, Dr Peets said only cricket matches with 275 people or more will have to adhere to Covid-19 SafeKey requirements.

Previously, matches with 51 people or more had to adhere to SafeKey, which requires that players and spectators had to show proof of immunisation or a negative PCR within 72 hours before play.

Dr Peets said that any cricket league or county games would also have to adhere to additional conditions, including the closure of their indoor facilities. Food and beverage service will only be permitted outdoors.

Dr Peets said: “If they have an event that is 275 or greater, SafeKey is mandatory.”

He added that food and bar sections of the club must remain closed for one hour after the end of a match so that they could be properly cleaned.

He added that indoor gatherings with 50 people or more and outdoor gatherings with 100 people or more would have to apply for an exemption and adhere to SafeKey requirements.

But this is contradicted by the guidance on the Government website which states that any gathering over 50 people requires a large group exemption and makes no distinction between indoor and outdoor events.

An emergency Zoom meeting was called on Thursday evening between the Bermuda Cricket Board, which had earlier applied for exemptions for future gatherings, and the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport.

Dr Peets said yesterday that the exemption conditions were communicated to the Bermuda Cricket Board during the Thursday meeting and officially confirmed yesterday.

He added that the board’s application was vetted and that they eventually settled on the current restrictions.

Dr Peets said exemptions would not work on a “one size fits all” basis and that every application would be examined and vetted before a group size and restrictions were approved.

But he added: “We’re also mindful to take into consideration that Covid is fluid – a situation can vary from day to day or week to week.

“Any approval that’s been given comes with the condition that it’s subject to change based on the environment.

“If we have an outbreak tomorrow and the Minister of Health issues a public health emergency then that affects everything – including the exemption I gave the day before.”

But Ben Smith, the Opposition spokesman in the Senate for Youth, Sports and Community Affairs, said the public were right to be confused by the mixed messages coming from government.

He said Dr Peets was raising the SafeKey requirement from 50 to 275 for cricket matches just days after the Premier, David Burt, had announced that large gatherings without exemptions were being reduced from 100 to 50 because of the spread of the virulent Delta variant.

Mr Smith said the fact the Delta variant had so far infected six people underlined the necessity of tight restrictions.

Mr Smith said: “If health is the priority and we are protecting from the variant, then the restrictions are in place for that reason.

“SafeKey was to allow for large gatherings while being as safe as possible.”

He added: “We have been told this week we cannot let our guard down because the Delta variant has arrived and cases have started to rise.

“Gathering sizes have been reduced from 100 to 50 – another last minute restriction which has inevitably caused ire among members of the community who have planned events based on the former guidelines.

“Why was the change implemented on the same week we have been warned of the variant and how we need to protect our people?

“Can we have clarity on whether the decisions are being taken in the best interest of health or for some other reason? Because the conflicting messages are confusing.”

Mr Smith acknowledged people’s desire for things to return to normal.

He added that the reasoning that led to these conditions should "open the door for all sports to return to normal, with full attendance”.

“That opinion would be perfectly fine if sport was confined to a bubble and not part of the wider society,” he said. “That is not the case, and the rules and restrictions for the rest of Bermuda are significantly harsher and seem to be counter to this decision regarding cricket.”

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Published July 03, 2021 at 8:02 am (Updated July 03, 2021 at 8:02 am)

Peets relaxes SafeKey requirement for cricket

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