Covid pulls the plug on football
The dramatic rise in the number of active Covid-19 cases on island has led to organised football being suspended at least until December 22.
The Ministry of Health invoked Section 88 of the Public Health Act 1949 — “Closing Places of Public Resort” — in the middle of an eventful Saturday when at first it was publicised that another youth programme was being suspended because its head coach had been in contact with an infected person, and then a single Premier Division match was being called off after it had been initially declared that a clubhouse being ordered closed had nothing to do with football.
But in the late hours of Saturday night, the Bermuda Football Association accepted the inevitable, after getting a firm nudge in the form of a government directive, and postponed the four Premier Division matches and two First Division matches that were scheduled for yesterday.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said last night that the decision was made so that a pause can be taken while contact tracers are going about their jobs amid an atmosphere that is becoming more frantic with every tranche of positive cases.
Section 88 of the Public Health Act 1949 was amended this year to read:
“Where it appears to the minister that a communicable disease of the first or second category exists in any part of Bermuda; or there is, in the opinion of the Chief Medical Officer, an immediate risk of an outbreak of such disease in any part of Bermuda, and that the closing of any school, cinema, church, hotel or other place of public resort or meeting is necessary for checking the spread or the threatened spread of the disease, the minister may order the manager or other person in charge of that place to close it; and such manager or person in charge shall forthwith comply with that order, and shall continue to comply therewith until otherwise directed by the minister.”
The BFA said in a statement: “As a result of the current increase in the level of Covid-19 transmission in Bermuda, the BFA fully understands and supports this decision by the Bermuda Government. The BFA will meet with the relevant government ministries in the coming days to determine the way forward and will provide further updates in due course.”
The postponed matches were X-Roads v Robin Hood, Devonshire Colts v Dandy Town, St George’s v Somerset Eagles, and Southampton Rangers v Somerset Trojans in the Premier Division, Boulevard v Ireland Rangers, and Hamilton Parish v Flanagan’s Onions in the First Division.
Two matches managed to be played on Saturday afternoon before the intervention — PHC Zebras beat North Village Rams 3-1 in a Premier Division match at PHC Field, where it was reported that most supporters observed mask-wearing and social-distancing guidelines, and Vasco beat Wolves 4-2 in the First Division at Garrison Field.
Ten new cases were recorded on Saturday, bringing the active number up to 63 — more than double the number from seven days earlier.
There are two people in hospital, one of whom is receiving critical care.
The health ministry began the day by requesting that persons who attended the West End funeral of Charles Henry Eugene Eberly on November 28 quarantine themselves in lieu of a Covid-19 test.
Then came notification that bars and restaurants were being ordered to close at midnight rather than 2am pursuant to the Bermuda Public Health (Covid-19 Emergency Powers) (No 3) Amendment (No 2) Regulations 2020.
Meanwhile, rumblings in the football world began with the news that Andrew Bascome’s FC Bascome Bermuda had suspended operations for 14 days because he had been in contact with a positive Covid case and had been advised to quarantine.
While it was made clear that Bascome has not tested positive for Covid-19, a club statement shared with The Royal Gazette read:
“We need to close all our programmes for the next two weeks as of today, which will take us to the end of term 1, Wednesday 16th December.
“Coach Bascome has been advised to quarantine by the Ministry of Health, as he has been in contact with a positive case. He has not tested positive at this time.
“We will also advise the BFA that all FCB matches will be cancelled during this period.
“We will confirm if December camp will proceed in due course.
“Thank you for your understanding.
“FC Bascome Management.”
FC Bascome Bermuda are the second football club after North Village to have been affected significantly by Covid-19.
Village were forced to suspend all training and games involving their under-5 and under-11 Red teams for two weeks as a precautionary measure after two players and a coach were linked with schools exposed to the coronavirus.
If there was clarity in the FC Bascome Bermuda release, there was confusion in senior football surrounding Southampton Rangers.
A statement to its members first said that the match against the Trojans would go on but that the clubhouse would be closed for Covid cleaning.
“In the abundance of caution and under the guidance of the Health Department, Southampton Rangers Sports Club will be closing the clubhouse for a short period of time while it is cleaned to Covid regulations,” the statement said.
“The scheduled game versus Somerset will continue without the clubhouse being open to patrons. We look forward to seeing our fans on Sunday.
“Please remember that masks must be worn at all times and that social distancing is required.”
The BFA responded later by singularly postponing the match while attempting to distance football from the reasons why the clubhouse was being considered off limits.
“Due to an event held at the club that was totally unrelated to football or the Rangers football team, which has resulted in persons testing positive for the Covid-19 virus, the Department of Health has taken the decision to close the club until further notice,” the governing body said in an evening statement.
Less than five hours later, the rest of the weekend schedule got the bullet.