STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
at the Ninth Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly
Thursday, 11th June, 2020
SPORTS AND RECREATION PROTOCOLS
Mister Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to give an update on Sports and Recreation in the COVID-19 Era. By now, we are all aware of the health risks caused by this worldwide pandemic. All over the world, professional leagues and sporting events we all enjoy, the NBA, the NFL, and even the Olympics have been shutdown. Recreational facilities, including public pools and basketball courts have been closed due to the threat of transmission of this virus.
Mister Speaker, in response to the threat of the Coronavirus the Government of the Virgin Islands implemented restrictions and measures to ensure the safety of its residents, including social distancing, restrictions on social gatherings and 24-hour curfews for several weeks. These necessary measures halted all sports and recreation activities in the Territory.
Mister Speaker, we are also aware that sports and recreation provide much needed health benefits, a form of stress relief and enjoyment, and even a source of income for persons. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we bring sports back on stream, but in doing so, we must place safety as our number 1 priority. Yes, we have no confirmed active cases, but our borders are open, and we are not out of the woods yet.
Mister Speaker, the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports led the charge of re-establishing sports and recreation in the COVID-19 era with an online series of tutorials in a number of sports, including basketball, volleyball, and martial arts.
Mister Speaker, the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports also asked Sporting organizations to produce sensible plans to show how they safely resume their activities. Most of the associations and organisations responded verbally, but only the BVI Athletics Association, the BVI Rugby Union, Boynes Taekwondo Academy and the BVI Football association provided comprehensive written plans of how they will do that safely.
Mister Speaker, following the recent change to restrictions on social gatherings issued by the the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands, outdoor sports and recreational activities will be able to take place adhering to strict guidelines. Mister Speaker, Cabinet passed these specific protocols for the safe operation of Sports, including tennis, basketball, and softball, and Recreational activities, including dance, table tennis, and pool.
Mister Speaker, these protocols will be shared with all sporting associations, and clubs are strongly advised to also seek advice and specific guidance for their own sports and activities from their National Governing Body of Sport. These protocols will also be available from the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Mister Speaker, while considering this guidance, local clubs must undertake risk assessments and develop specific rules for how their sports and recreational activities will operate. The recently Cabinet-approved Sports and Recreation protocols place specific sports in specific categories based on whether they are team sports versus individual sports, whether they involve contact or not, and the degree of risk presented by each activity. Some sports and recreational activities are permitted with few alterations; some require adaptations, and some have severe restrictions.
Mister Speaker, these protocols speak to the issue of spectators, the need for social distancing, the sanitization of equipment and hands, the number of participants for any particular activity, how changing rooms are dealt with, how coaches operate, among other things.
Mister Speaker, I ask that everyone interested in Sports and Recreation to familiarize themselves with these protocols and to put in place their specific plans for operations. Please contact the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports and your governing bodies of your individual sports and recreational activities.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you.