Further Covid restrictions coming for sporting events
Yet another rise in Coronavirus cases is threatening sports and social gatherings on the island, after the government reported more than 100 new cases on Monday, and confirmed 74 cases of the Omicron variant.
Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, announced yesterday that further restrictions will be imposed at what is a popular time for sporting events.
“These have been very trying times for many sectors in our community,” Peets said yesterday.
“Cultural and sporting events have been severely impacted and it is very disheartening to me, personally, to have to consider further restrictions to already stretched sectors that are so important to Bermuda’s social, mental and physical well-being,” Peets said.
The new requirements include a 12am to 5:30am curfew for all approved events, while spectators will now also be required to present a negative antigen test for access.
“The current standard conditions for large group events require all attendees to have a verified SafeKey,” Peets pointed out.
“In light of the current situation, we will now also require attendees to take an antigen test on the day of the event as an additional precaution. Event organisers will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing these protocols,” he said.
“Antigen tests will be required for all previously approved events, as well as new applications. For sporting events, this means spectators must produce both a SafeKey and an antigen test.
At football matches recently, players and officials were required to have an antigen test prior to the game, with strict separation of players, officials and spectators at games.
“For the sporting group, comprised of athletes and officials, the Return to Play testing framework will remain in effect as the requirement to train and compete,” said Peets.
The latest announcement from government comes at a time when football is preparing for one of its busiest periods of the season, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period when a total of 27 matches were scheduled between this Sunday and January 2.
Peets underlined that the steps were necessary to ensure that every effort was being made to secure the safety of the population.
“My Ministry fully appreciates the health and social benefits of sport and culture, and their importance. Nevertheless, we must balance this with the country’s need to ensure everyone's safety,” said Peets.
Events this year have been hit by the pandemic, with next month’s Bermuda Triangle Challenge – three days of road running events – already cancelled. More cancellations could come, Peets revealed.
“Given the increasing cases of Coronavirus that Bermuda is currently experiencing and to protect those vulnerable individuals in our community, additional protocols for large groups will be put in place,” he stated.
“As the Minister of Health has said, a curfew will be between 12am, and 5.30am. This means all previously approved large group exemptions, as well as future ones, will be subject to curfew.
“A large group exemption does not exempt you from curfew. Events must end in time to allow persons to safely get home, without speeding or becoming a risk on the roads.
“Additionally, approvals for large group events, effective Thursday, December 23, will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons if indoors, and to a maximum of 100 persons if outdoors. Events combining indoor and outdoor components will be limited to 50 persons.”
Peets added: “This will apply to all future applications for the time being. Previously approved events can proceed with their approved numbers, although we do recommend that event organisers limit group sizes as much as possible.”
“Moving forward, all large group event applications will be processed under these new policies. Also, and as per the standard conditions, wearing masks, contract tracing, physical distancing, and other public health guidance must be followed.
“I appreciate that these health and safety measures can be an inconvenience and challenge many. But it is the responsibility of the Government to protect the people of this country from harm. And it is our individual responsibility to keep each other safe.
“To that end, we are committed to preventing the spread of Covid-19 in Bermuda and saving lives.”
For more information on Large Group Guidelines and conditions, including SafeKey requirements, guidelines for the number of attendees, including hosts, organisers, staff, volunteers, players, coaches, officials, spectators, vendors, food and beverage service, the public can visit www.gov.bm