We have now entered phase three of the national COVID-19 road map. This has happened sooner than expected and is a result of the hard work of the Irish people in maintaining social distance, practicing good hand hygiene and accepting personal responsibility. By working together we have saved lives and limited the impact of the disease. Continued adherence to public health advice will determine whether we continue to move forward.
Phase 3 of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business came into effect on Monday June 29th. The guidance for the safe return to sport & physical activity, agreed by the Expert Group on Return to Sport, encourages a gradual and inclusive approach to the resumption of sporting activity.
What it means:
- Sporting activities may gradually recommence, including:
- Team leagues for adults and children
- Close contact sports
- Organised sporting spectator events and fixtures.
The following may reopen:
- Indoor Gyms and exercise facilities — Yoga, Pilates and dance studios
- Sports clubs and public swimming pools.
Education/childcare/young people may reopen:
- All adult education facilities
- Creches, childminding facilities and pre-schools
- Summer Camps
- Youth Clubs
- All indoor and outdoor amenities for children
Outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people when conducted in line with public health advice are permissible.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people when conducted in line with public health advice are permissible.
Travel is permitted anywhere in Ireland
The Expert Group on Return to Sport has issued three key points for clarification in relation to the operation of summer camps from June 29:
- Numbers: The restriction on numbers (‘15’) is lifted. However, caution is advised, as additional personnel will be required to monitor risk arising from Covid-19. Additional consideration should be given to the safeguarding recommendation (under 12s ratio 1:8, 12s and over ratio 1:10). The availability of space will be a factor in the numbers of participants.
- Outdoor/Indoor: Summer camps should be based outdoors with limited access to indoors in case of weather or the need for diverse activity. Indoor activity must be done under strict protocol and acknowledging the extra risk associated with indoor activity. The numbers accommodated for outdoor activity should give consideration for the necessity to move indoors at some point during the day (weather dependent).
- Contact: Summer camps may allow a certain degree of contact in their activity in the sporting context. Organisers should observe good contact protocols off the field of play and be aware of the intensity, duration and nature of the activity that involves contact.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has issued specific guidance on the return to sports activities for children and adolescents, which is available here: covid-19-return-to-play-sports-for-children
Additional Considerations for Participation in Sport by People with Disabilities or Older People
Whilst mitigating the risk of Covid-19 is more challenging for those who require assistance in their sport participation, steps should be taken including:
- Consider DATE (distance, activity, time, environment)
- Ensure daily symptom checks
- Limit the number of participants
- Limit the duration of the activity
- Consider the contact (proximity, direct touch, equipment sharing) and minimise where possible.
- Train outdoors
- Consider the use of PPE for assisting the participant (for example, if they require assistance getting onto a bike). It is accepted that the use of PPE during sporting activities is not generally advised, however its use is promoted outside of field of play, where guidelines suggest.
- Avoid slipstreams where possible
Competition and Training
The return to training and competition should be on an opt-in basis, with participants taking personal responsibility to decide whether they are happy to return. It is important that players & athletes are not be penalised if they wish to opt-out of training at this stage in the Roadmap. They should be encouraged to communicate their concerns to their club and/or National Governing Body so that they can be addressed.
The return to competition should be slow with consideration for the period of training completed prior to any scheduled matches/competitions. Individuals, especially high performance and professional athletes & players, may have maintained a level of fitness throughout the restriction, however the risk of injury will be increased. Those leading the delivery of their sport will need to account for this risk and tailor training accordingly. Minimising the spread of Covid-19 and the occurrence of injury will be critical.
Contact permitted, but should be limited to training and competition only. Strict physical distancing protocols should be in place outside the field and adhered to at all times. Covid-19 measures should be incorporated into all competition/procedure documents to form a normal part of the sport’s delivery. This should include the appointment of a Covid-19 Safety Officer, to ensure public health guidelines are adhered to, and appropriate mechanisms to assist with contact tracing.
Sport Ireland continues to provide a range of training & support resources to the sector in relation to Covid-19, including an online e-learning platform, which is available here https://www.sportireland.ie/covid19/course