By Neto Baptiste
Although it is not yet mandatory for athletes to be vaccinated ahead of major international meets and competitions, Minister of Sports here, Daryll Matthew, has warned that this could soon become the reality and has encouraged associations to launch campaigns encouraging athletes and officials to take the Covid-19 jab.
His plea comes following a meeting with local sports associations to discuss the reopening of major team sports, and though the minister made it clear that it is not mandatory for athletes to take the vaccine in order to engage in local sports, he said associations should play their part in sensitising their members.
“There are two things really, one being athletes travelling to compete abroad in events, and more and more countries have already indicated — whether explicitly or otherwise — that entry into their jurisdiction is going to be contingent upon vaccination so some of that have already gone public and some of it are in the plans,” he said.
“Particularly, where competitions are concerned locally, we have not made it mandatory for persons to compete in a discipline here in Antigua and Barbuda that they must be fully vaccinated. We will continue to dialogue with the national federations and associations to encourage their members and all of their stakeholders to get vaccinated,” the minister added.
Last week, Cabinet announced a decision to reopen competition for major team sports like football and basketball given that these associations first apply for approval from the relevant health authorities.
Matthew suggested that associations could utilise a number of their elite athletes to get the message across.
“One of the things we discussed with the national associations is having some of our prominent athletes do public service ads advocating, of course, for people to get inoculated or vaccinated but also some of the other protocols that come along with a safe return to sports.
“Petra Williams spoke to me about a week ago with the idea of launching an initiative with our athletes and the whole tagline behind the campaign is that it [the vaccine] has not affected my performance and to have some of our prominent athletes speak to the public indicating that ‘yes, I have been vaccinated’, if they have been, and that their performance is not impaired,” he said.
Although some sports like golf, tennis, cycling and cricket were granted permission between late last year and early 2021 to restart competitions, major team sports like football and basketball were not as fortunate and have not held competitive matches since March of 2020.