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Covid Rise Could Affect Return Of School Sports: Matthew Says Decision Will Be Made Following Meeting With Stakeholders

By Neto Baptiste

Concerns regarding a recent spike in Covid-19 cases could negatively impact the planned return of school sports.

Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew made the revelation while speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show on Wednesday, stating that although a decision will be reached following a meeting with stakeholders within the ministry, the Covid-19 situation will heavily impact any consensus regarding a return of schools competition.

“The plan was, not necessarily the first day of the term which was day days ago, but certainly within the first to three weeks of the term, a recommencement of schools sports will take place, but we see where we are now that the numbers have started to increase again. It is not yet off the table so between Monday and Tuesday of next week I will be having a meeting with the deputy director of sports [Evans Jones] and the coordinators — as I think the director, Heather Samuel-Daley is still on vacation — to sit and reassess. Do we still go through based on what the epidemiological situation may be at that time? So we will have to consult with the Ministry of Health as well,” he said.

School competitions were halted in March 2020 after the country recorded its first known case of Covid-19. Although there has been a return of competition at the association level since then, school sports has not been as fortunate.

Matthew said, however, that only some low-risk sports could get approval.

“First of all, it is not going to be every sport that would restart now because in the best of years the sports are seasonal so you would have basketball that is played in the first team, football that is played partially in the first and partially in the second term and volleyball and so on so some of the sports it was determined, can return safely so court games that have a relatively small number of persons like volleyball or tennis, there was no major hindrance against them returning,” he said.

“The track & field athletes had continued to train throughout and so the only sports for which there may be some concerns would be the major team sports that we know, in society, have an issue would be football and basketball and to a lesser extent, netball,” the minister added.

Asked if the ministry would adapt a similar approach to that in Jamaica where only vaccinated students are allowed to compete in school sports, Matthew said that although he is aware of that tactic, it is not something that has come up for discussion at any level.

“We try as much as possible to get as many of our population vaccinated and not only for their safety but the collective safety of our society, and so every option is on the table but that particular option has not been tabled. I saw it through my colleague in Jamaica and I looked at it and said ok and kept reading,” he said. 

The Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA) recently hosted its Vax 8 competition. It followed the government’s lifting of restrictions on competitions after the suspension was reinstated in February last year when spectators invaded the Bethesda playing field after their community cricket team, the Golden Eagles, beat Empire Nation to claim the Super 40 title.

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