Elimination of low-ventilation change rooms, disinfection of training equipment after every use, a bar on sparring for now, and usage of gyms in shifts — these are some of the measures to tackle the COVID-19 threat that the Sports Authority of India is proposing if training of athletes resumes later this month.
The SAI has formulated a detailed draft of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed before reopening of its training centres by the end of this month, as suggested by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju but subject to clearance from the Health and Home ministry.
A six-member committee, headed by secretary Rohit Bharadwaj, has formulated a 33-page document, which is yet to be passed by the Sports and Health Ministry.
The document proposes making the Arogya Setu app mandatory for all athletes and staff, strict social distancing at training venues, use of PPE kits by medical practitioners on duty, increased sanitation measures and stringent supervision of athletes’ health among a slew of measures to counter the threat posed by the deadly virus.
“The committee has outlined a broad SOP but it is not final. it is the first draft which is yet to be vetted by the Sports Ministry as well as the Health Ministry. We can’t expect the SOP to be passed in totality,” a SAI source told PTI.
SAI has sent across the draft to the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to seek their view on the recommendations.
“In the end, the resumption of training will depend on MHA’s guidelines. If the MHA bars sporting activities in its upcoming guidelines to be issued post lockdown 3, like it did in the previous guidelines, the Sports Ministry can’t resume training,” the source added.
The country will enter the fourth phase of the lockdown from May 18 but significant relaxations are also expected.
“The SAI acted in a proactive manner and laid down the SOP in case the MHA gives a go ahead for training,” the source said.
The SOP, a copy of which is with PTI, suggests resumption of training in small groups, which the Indian hockey players had already stated in their online meeting with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday.
The SOP calls for COVID-19 testing of all athletes who would be returning to the training facilities.
“The returning athletes shall be quarantined till the test results clear them of COVID-19 contraction. Final clearance should be provided by the Doctor-in-charge at the respective SAI centres,” it further states.
“Use of the fitness equipment shall be permitted only while wearing gloves and face mask and under consequent use of disinfectants afterwards. Use of the fitness room shall be permitted only in small groups of maximum 5 people under observance distancing norms,” it adds.
The SAI committee suggests that physiotherapy and massage be avoided unless “absolutely necessary”. The protocol for such sessions would require the people involved to follow basic hygiene.
“Athletes shall be treated individually in spacious, ventilated rooms. If necessary, additional rooms may be opened with disinfected examination couches,” the document states.
Besides SAI centres, the SOP, if approved, will also be applicable on private facilities like the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence and Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy among others.
The SOP also stresses on the need to form a COVID Task Force at each training centre with the Centre-in-charge as its ex-officio chairman.
The SOP further states that it would be the responsibility of NSFs to ensure complete adherence to training protocols.
“NSFs shall nominate a Hygiene Officer to ensure compliance and implementation of all protective measures for athletes and staff safety.”
The SAI panel proposes only one access point for entry and exit at training venues with utilisation of the facilities by non-SAI athletes or outsiders be prohibited till relaxations are announced by the central government based on local conditions.
The document proposes maximum restrictions for contact sports, which will not have any sparring in their training programme for now.
“Additional staff shall be appointed for proper disinfection of the equipment prior to continuous usage,” it states.
“Equipment which is bound to be shared and utilised continuously during a training such as punching/kicking bags, slam balls, skipping ropes etc. must be used carefully without using such equipment to rub/touch face, remove sweat, cover mouth,” it adds.