By Trevor Makonyonga
Following the recent suspension of sporting activities in the country, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has said without introducing a hub city that cuts off players from the outside world, football will take long to return.
In a statement, the SRC said if players continue to back to their homes after matches and training sessions it is hard to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the camp.
“Players and officials were not playing from a bio-secure bubble but were commuting to and from their homes for training sessions and matches. It is clear that protocols designed to mitigate the lack of a bio-secure bubble for players and officials (the costs were said to be prohibitive) where not being effectively adhered to or monitored by the affected individuals and clubs resulting in the rising rate of infections, above.
“This posed a significant risk of infection from their respective communities (which were not a controlled environment) in circumstances where the rate of local transmission has significantly increased as evidenced by the numbers released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.”
SRC added, “The above statistics underscore the fact that without placing footballers and officials in a bio-secure bubble, the immediate return of premier league football in the present environment is simply not possible.
“A positive player risks infecting team-mates, close family members and subsequently, the community. It is clear that any return to top flight football at this stage can only happen if a full bio-secure bubble environment is implemented where players and officials reside in controlled environments for the duration of the tournament.
“This is the position implemented by cricket and rugby, among other protocols, leading to the various exceptions granted to them in the present environment.”
SRC went on to state that the suspension of sporting activities in the country was necessary in preventing players from contracting Covid-19.
“Whilst the SRC acknowledges the fact that sport is not just a healthy lifestyle, but is also a business sustaining livelihoods through employment creation across its entire value chain contributing to our GDP, the temporary suspension of sport is inevitable. This suspension in particular is necessary in order to preserve human lives. A case in point is the country’s most popular sport, football, and in particular the suspension of the ZIFA-PSL Chibuku Super Cup tournament.
“The first half of the Chibuku Super Cup tournament covering the period April to mid-June 2021, 9500 tests were done with 4 retaining positive results. This represented a positive infection rate of 0.042%. The second phase of the Chibuku Super cup tournament which commenced mid-June until the suspension during the week ending Friday 2 July 2021, a total of 24 COVID-19 positive cases were detected from 1100 tests. This signified a positive test rate of 2.182% over a one and half week period and an absolute increase in numbers of 51.8 times. Consequently, two Chibuku Super Cup fixtures: Harare City FC v ZPC Kariba FC and Ngezi Platinum Stars FC v Triangle United FC had to be postponed by the organizers as a way of mitigating the risk of spreading infections.”
As per the SRC, the increase in the number of positive tests outlined above represent an increase of 600% between the first phase of the tournament which lasted for two and a half months and the second phase which lasted for two weeks. Therefore, the first phase contributed 14% of the total positive cases as compared to the second phase which contributed 86% of the total positive infections albeit in a two-week period.
The SRC added that vaccination could have helped in decreasing the COVID-19 cases.
“The case study of Chibuku Super Cup has also demonstrated the benefits of vaccination as the highest number of positive tests were attributed to those teams with the least number of players and officials to have been vaccinated. Equally important to note is that although the matches were being played in a controlled environment and that PSL arranged for pre and post match testing for players, fumigation of stadia, zoning of playing areas, this was not sufficient to circumvent the continued spread of the virus in the current third wave environment,” said SRC.
Weekly reviews are being conducted in consultation with the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation and the Ministry of Health and Child Care on the situation regarding the resumption of sport.