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By Neto Baptiste

Athletes wishing to take part in national competitions are being told they must first be vaccinated in order to do so.

The revelation came via the most recent Cabinet notes which indicated that a decision was taken during the body’s sitting this week, that athletes must be fully vaccinated in order to compete.

“It was also agreed that those who wish to be involved in competitive sports, such as football, netball, basketball, and even cricket, will be required to have taken the two doses of the available vaccine; those doses ought to be eight weeks to 12 weeks apart for maximum efficacy,” the Cabinet notes stated.

Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew, when contacted by Observer media, said the move does not mean the vaccine is now mandatory for athletes, but rather a decision to ensure that those taking part in competition are safeguarded against serious illness and or death should they contract the virus.

Following a meeting held two weeks ago between the Ministry of Sports and heads of the country’s associations, it was revealed that sporting bodies could seek permission from the proper authorities to host organised competitions. It was also agreed that the associations would make public appeals for their athletes and members to get vaccinated.

The Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) recently launched its vaccination campaign with a jingle encouraging fans and players to get the AstraZeneca jab. However, there has not been a major push amongst the sports fraternity for athletes and fans to get vaccinated.

In December last year, the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA) was given permission to host a 10 overs competition. The decision came some nine months after competitions had been halted in March when the country recorded its first case of the virus.

Competitive cricket was, however, halted once more in March 2021 following an incident in Bethesda where fans ran onto the field in celebration of the CUB Bethesda Golden Eagles clinching the Super 40 title against Anderson Carty Empire Nation on the final ball of the contest.