Good news! In a COVID-19 meeting yesterday afternoon between the Federal Minister of Youth and Sport, leading health experts from the Australian Government Department of Health and Sport Australia's CEO with National Sporting Organisation including Touch Football Australia (TFA) the experts advised that community sport could play on. And should play on – due to the health and mental wellbeing benefits that participating in sport provides people and communities.
All health experts in the meeting reassured us that the risks of participating in sport are low as long as people who are unwell do not attend.
It was also communicated that while high-contact sports may pose a greater transmission risk, the risk of infection in a minimal-contact sport such as Touch Football, where contact is also not prolonged, is low.
While social distancing is currently recommended for people as they go about their daily lives, social distancing is about avoiding ‘close contact’ – contact that involves 15 minutes face-to-face, or being in the same room as others for two hours or more. While spectators at Touch games should practise social distancing by remaining at least 1.5m from others because they are likely to be in static close proximity, players on a field do not have prolonged contact.
TFA encourages its competitions of under 500 people in one location at a time to continue running as scheduled.
To help minimise risk for those taking part in sport, the Australian Government has announced new Community Sport Guidelines, developed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which comprises of all state and territory Chief Health Officers and chaired by the Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy. These guidelines were subsequently endorsed by the newly formed National Cabinet which is made up of all Premiers, First Ministers and the Prime Minister.
AHPPC COVID-19 COMMUNITY SPORT GUIDELINES
All community sport participants must play a role to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, including those organising, attending or supporting attendance at these activities.
Participants should not attend and participate in Community Sport if they:
- Have travelled internationally or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the preceding 14 days; or
- Are at a high risk including the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Attendance at Community Sport activities
Only essential participants should attend activities, i.e. players, coaches, match officials, staff and volunteers involved in operations and parents/guardians of participants;
All players, visitors should practise the following social distancing measures at Community Sporting activities:
Players, visitors and officials should minimise physical contact as much as is practicable, for example no shaking hands, no walking out with player mascots, no pre- or post-match celebrations and no celebrating between players during the match.
- Spectators should ensure a distance of 1.5 metres is kept between themselves and others;
- Access to change rooms should be restricted solely to players, officials and essential staff;
- It is recommended that sporting teams, including school sporting teams, maintain local competitions only, with no inter-district, or inter-club travel. As with all gatherings, basic protective measures should be observed, such as regular hand hygiene practices before, during and after the match, do not share drink bottles, and avoid touching your face.
General hygiene measures at facilities
Facilities should ensure that:
- Spaces at each facility, surfaces and objects are regularly cleaned with disinfectant;
- Provide hand washing guidance (who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/);
- Promote regular and thorough hand washing by staff and participants;
- Provide sanitising hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the event (particularly entry or high-use areas such as a registration desk, change rooms, toilets or kiosk);
- Make sure dispensers are regularly refilled; and
- Promote exclusion of ill persons.
Specific to Touch, TFA recommends that administrators and participants also follow these additional guidelines:
- Sub-boxes should not be used currently because they encourage people to huddle together. We recommend that players should be allowed to run on from anywhere along the sideline.
- Disinfect the ball before and after each game;
- Print and place signage throughout your venue to remind people of the recommended infection control practices [see Touch Football Australia’s precautionary measures A4 poster tipsheet for printing and distribution here];
- As well as not sharing drink bottles, ensure that drink bottles are clearly marked with a name;
- As usual, do not share towels or whistles; and
- Strongly consider not running bars, canteens or barbecues and, if possible, do not open clubhouses. Plan for congregations of participants outdoors rather than indoors.
For further information on the Australian Government Community Sport Guidelines and more, go to https://www.health.gov.au/news/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc-coronavirus-covid-19-statement-on-17-march-2020