Organisations heads advocate Covid inoculation for resumption of team sports in short order.

As leaders of team sports organisations remain eager to return to the field of play, they continue to advocate vaccination among the various stakeholders as the best form of suasion to the government, in making that decision. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the resumption of horse racing but said the country is “not there yet” when it comes to the re-starting team sport.

“...we believe because of how many we have released in the food service sector, the school, and other aspects of opening up (the economy), that the pleasure sector we hold for another few weeks,” the Prime Minister stated during a news conference last Saturday. “We anticipate that we are not too far away, I hope I am not talking out of turn here. We anticipate that we are not too far away from the opening up of beaches and outdoor team sport,” he added.

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis suggested sporting organisations could build and present a stronger case to the government by being more proactive towards the Covid-19 vaccination effort.

“I think the issue is really revolving around the safe zones. The fact that they (the government) have allowed since last year national team sports to be able to play and practice has more to with their comfort level, to a point, that it is a controlled environment that creates a biosecure zone and a safe zone,” Lewis reasoned.

“The challenge once you step outside that is how do you get and maintain that assurance, because outside of the national team sports, international and regional events, the concept of a safe zone is harder to control.”

Lewis said the difficulty would be in ensuring safe zones in public spaces like savannahs and public courts for outdoor activities, especially where large numbers of people, besides the players, coaches, administrators and officials, could congregate.

“We in sport must appreciate and understand that public health considerations will always take priority at this point in time. We can take comfort from the opening of businesses from November 1 to give a guide, in my view, of what the expectations are. It involves people becoming fully vaccinated.”

How do we cope with that?” Lewis asked rhetorically, adding that vaccination has become a mandatory requirement for international sporting events. “So it is not really a dilemma, it is really a choice. The various sporting organisations have to come to terms with that,” he added.

Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) chairman and Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board (TTHB) president, Douglas Camacho, noted that team sports, except for cricket, invariably involves close physical contact whilst social distancing is possible in the stands.

“I am still hopeful that team sports can resume by the next update. Hopefully this can happen sooner if people would get the vaccine and enable the country to move forward more openly,” Camacho surmised. “If it is possible to restrict only to fully vaccinated individuals and put in place protocols (rules modification) to minimise the physical contact, for example touch tackle in rugby, then I am fully supportive. As a country, I believe we urgently need to open up without compromising all the sacrifices made to date.”

Meanwhile, Robert Hadad, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s normalisation committee (NC), supports the decisions of the government to date. “They have all the data and facts and we trust the process and path they are on to get us back to a safe and secure functioning society,” said Hadad.

“It has been difficult for all who take part in team sports, but we hope the restart is soon,” he assessed, adding, “Mentally, people are frustrated and we are all ready to restart team sports and all sports for that matter. I urge as many as possible to get vaccinated.”

Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath said while he was disappointed the restrictions were not lifted, the TTCB are hoping the next briefing will bear better news.

“However, I fully understand the concern expressed by the prime minister because of the opening of other sectors of the economy, he definitely wants to look at that first before he makes a final decision,” Bassarath said.

“From a cricket point of view, it has been nearly two years now that we have been on a lockdown and the ordinary clubs and cricket enthusiasts cannot engage in the sport that they love so much, so we ourselves are very concerned about the development of the game and the youngsters.”

In the interim, Bassarath said the TTCB are eagerly awaiting the lifting of the restrictions and are already planning for the restart with a tournament involving the country’s top cricketers for early 2022.