The Acting President, Jennifer Sawyer, and the Executive of Squash South Africa are acutely aware of the challenging times which are facing every individual in South Africa – be it economically, psychologically, physically, and emotionally. The Covid-19 virus has struck world wide – it seems surreal and as has been stated in the media and on TV, it is a “War against an invisible enemy.”
We are aware that clubs, like all sporting facilities, are struggling as they are closed: squash coaches as coaches in all federations, are unable to earn an income – a scary and perturbing situation. The number of infected persons in South Africa is on the rise as is the number of deaths but thankfully not as high as Italy, Spain, the UK, and the USA. The stringent lockdown rules may have contributed to this and the safety, health, and lives of all South Africans are the prime focus.
There are a number of petitions circulating, of which we are aware. The decision to impose the lockdown, to extend it, and ultimately to lift it, is the responsibility of the President and the Government. They are guided by various panels of experts. Included on the sports panel advising the Government is highly respected Dr. Jon Patricious, Associate Professor in the Health Department at Wits University. He has wide experience as team physician to school, club, provincial, and international sports teams in rugby, cricket, soccer, athletics, and basketball as well as having been a member of the S A Cricket and S A Rugby medical health committees and the Discovery Rookies Comrades Marathon Panel of experts.
Neither World Squash Federation nor Squash South Africa may lift the lockdown and allow squash to be played or to allow coaches to coach. Recreational driving is only allowed in Level 2.
A member of the Squash South Africa Alison Burchell, who is based in the UK contributed the points below which are well worth considering:
“On the opening up again, this is far more complex as there is information about the virus we do not know. This makes things very complex. So some issues for us – and it is a discussion happening in the UK as well:
- Social distancing for players – impossible – for spectators is possible
- If indeed the virus can spread through breath, if players are breathing hard in a confined space, this could be a problem. So we have eye protection. Would a mask be possible particularly playing at altitude?
- Sweat is an issue but could be addressed by the player wiping the floor rather than someone else. Allowing more time between points to clean up sweat on the player and elsewhere is possible. Do we say players need to wash hands during the breaks or use hand sanitiser before they go back on court?
- Insurance and liability? If Squash SA says it is OK to play and someone can prove that they were infected via a sanctioned game or event and in the worst-case scenario passes away, will we be liable in any way? If so, how do we protect ourselves? This would be particularly the case if we take this opportunity to say yes, we can go back to play. If anything, we would probably need to maintain an approach of “at your own risk”.
- If someone is asymptomatic and still infects someone or some people, what do we do? So even having temperature checks at the door will not suffice but an actual test will/may. So do we say every player has to test negative first? This would have to be paid by them. Even so, this should be done regularly as someone can be infected later.
- Some people seem to be testing positive again after they test negative i.e. in some countries, people test positive and are treated then released when they test negative e.g. twice over 2 or 3 days but then test positive a bit later.
- There is nothing that indicates how long a person is infectious for although apparently Korea is doing some research on how long the virus lasts in a petri dish. How long does that mean it lasts in the body – indications seem to be that the virus cells eventually break down.
- There is nothing that says when exactly people become infectious either.
- The virus seems to infect children in a different way from adults so this does not help us say certain age groups can go back to play.
- How do we manage coaching in terms of social distancing?
- With the WHO saying that certificates for those who have had the virus are not reliable, we cannot necessarily follow a process similar for those who have had and those who are testing negative.”
A difficult one.
I really want to emphasize that Squash South Africa is well aware of the financial challenges for clubs and coaches – and of all the frustrated players who want to just get back on court! BUT we need to abide by the Government regulations and stay safe, healthy, and alive.