Sports minister Ernest Peets admits concerns over upcoming events amid Covid spike
Ernest Peets admitted it will be a “difficult balancing act” for the Government to safely plan for upcoming international events in the wake of a recent surge in coronavirus cases which have forced the Return to Sport guidance back to stage 1.
Flora Duffy Day, when the island will honour its first Olympic gold medal-winner, is only a month away and is one of the events scheduled for October as it comes at the end of the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships weekend.
In the best of times Duffy draws a crowd whenever she competes on home soil and crowd sizes could factor into the planning of the events over the weekend of October 15 to 17, depending on how well the island handles the pandemic.
“The current spike is quite severe,” Peets, the sports minister, told The Royal Gazette yesterday. “The information I’ve received is the spike is more significant than any spike we’ve had before.
“Numbers announced earlier this week is there are over 1,000 cases that are under public health monitoring, over 40 in the hospital and ten in intensive care so things are quite severe at the moment.
“From my point of view we’re not only trying to save today but also trying to save tomorrow. It’s really been a very difficult but important balancing act.
“We’re trying to address situations today as it relates to what’s going on with Covid because we’re trying to salvage events that are really, really important to us a little farther down the calendar.”
Peets added: “The most important event coming up in the calendar from a national point of view is Flora Duffy’s arrival, which is about four weeks away.
“We have a little bit of time to make tough decisions to see if we can bring this current situation under control so we can celebrate her arrival and have the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay.
“That decision comes through the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the event organisers. On our part at Youth, Culture and Sport, the Department of Health has come up with some important recommendations regarding public safety around Covid.
“That is to move the maximum group size from 50 to 20 so our ministry has been approving these exemptions for the majority of the summer. We had to quickly reconvene and take a look at some of the events that have been approved and some of them we think we can allow to continue with some additional guidance.
“Others we are recommending that some of these events either be postponed until a future date or cancelled. We have to take it on a case-by-case basis because, for some individuals and organisers, these events are important. They have some community benefit and may be some economic implications as well.”
Sporting events scheduled for last weekend and this weekend were called off, including the final four rounds of matches in the Twenty20 First Division season which has now officially ended.
The new football season has also been delayed, with the Dudley Eve Trophy being cancelled for the first time in its history. The Bermuda Football Association has not been able to give any indication when the first matches will be played.
“For me there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Peets said. “We’re going to get football up and running, that goes without question, but the real question is when and how.
“My recommendation at the moment is we move sports to stage 1 which moves group sizes to ten and we’re discouraging training at the moment. One of the things we’re trying to do as a country is get the schools back together, so I’m not trying to encourage too much household mixing for the first two weeks.
“We’ve asked clubs to take a break for the next two weeks and once we get to week four, the Department of Health will be making some decisions about where we are regarding Covid.
“We have active plans with the Bermuda Football Association to give them a plan to get their season up and running.”
The minister added: “We have four stages in our Return to Play and right now we are in stage 1. We’ll see where we are when we get to the middle of October, about moving them, perhaps, to stage 3.”
Peets admits he was encouraged with the Covid numbers during the summer, numbers that have quickly jumped in the last few weeks.
“By and large I think we had really good summer, we saw Cup Match occur and had large events like Eastern Counties, so we had a relatively safe summer Covid-wise,” he said.
“I was really encouraged about that, that perhaps showed sports could continue in the fall. Then, of course out of the blue, this particular spike came and really upset all of our plans regarding sport and recreation.”