Good day, thank you for joining me.
I want to open today by stating that this Government and my Ministry are deeply committed to sport in the country. Sport is considered one of the bedrocks of our community and we fully recognize and embrace the critical role that sport plays in the social, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing in Bermuda.
Likewise, we understand that the necessary restrictions and limits imposed by COVID-19 have been a blow to the sporting community and we appreciate everyone’s patience and collaboration as Bermuda battles through this pandemic to keep our people safe and our economy open.
Indeed, by all measures, we are performing significantly better than most jurisdictions. We have much to be proud of in this regard, and the collaboration of the sporting community and the National Sports Governing Bodies has been an essential part of our success to date.
During these difficult times most of our normal activities have been curtailed or suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes our recreational sporting activities and national sporting events.
Sporting events bring us together in a spirit of comraderie and unity to cheer on and support our favourite teams, our family members and our friends.
They also allows us a personal outlet for stress and anxiety which is important for our overall wellbeing.
And they engender national pride to keep us united as one people.
Admitedly we have missed the routine of attending and engaging in regularly scheduled sporting activities during this time.
With that in mind, the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport has released “The Return to Play Guidance” to enable the safe and gradual resumption of local sporting activities.
The Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Security and the Association of National Sport Governing Bodies created the phased Return to Play Guidance for sports as a way to assist in safely resuming these national activities.
The document has four (4) easy–to-follow stages, and outlines the various health and safety protocols for governing sporting bodies, affiliating clubs, teams and sporting events.
The four stages are:
- Stage 1: Non-competitive training for exercise and technical development
- Stage 2: Team training, with restrictions
- Stage 3: Competitive training to prepare for competitions, and
- Stage 4: Return to play
Importantly, each stage has COVID-related restrictions with respect to the number of persons that can be present, attendance requirements, etc. Moving to each stage is guided by the Ministry of Health’s assessment of the country’s COVID-19 situation, and will be determined by the Cabinet and announced via the Government COVID-19 web page.
As we well know, athletes are used to having rules and following them, so playing within COVID rules and adhering to the guidance will be easy for this group and will allow us to safely proceed to competitive play in the not-too-distant future.
Allow me to describe the stages more fully.
Stage 1 finished yesterday, and involved non-competitive training for exercise and technical development. This limited the maximum persons to 10 and did not allow any close contact or fans.
Stage 2, Team Training, started today as the COVID emergency measures were relaxed at 6am. This stage allows the return to team training in groups up to 25, per the COVID-19 Emergency Measures Regulations. There cannot be any contact during exercise or technical development activities, and there cannot be any fans during Stage 2.
There must be 6 feet between participants at all times. Wearing mask is required except when doing an activity. And new groups should arrive at least 30 minutes (to allow for cleaning of equipment) after existing group has vacated.
Stage 3, Competitive training to prepare for competition, can be expected to start in two or more weeks, depending on the COVID-19 situation in the country. If we continue to do well, as we have been, then we can look forward to this stage.
Stage 3 allows full training to prepare for competition. Fans are not permitted, and there can be no competitive competitions allowed vs other teams/clubs/groups.
Significantly, to participate in Stage 3 activities Participants and officials must have a negative COVID-19 SALIVA test, taken not more than 3 days before training. This screening process will help ensure everyone taking part in this high-risk activity has a lesser risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19. The test must be repeated every 28 – 30 days.
Participants must remain 6 feet apart and wear a mask at all times, except those engaged in the physical training. There will still be a 30-minute separation between groups to allow for cleaning.
Finally, Stage 4, Return to Play, will allow all sports to compete and participate within the allowed COVID-19 restrictions per Public Health Regulations and Guidance.
Fans are permitted in this Stage but with COVID-19 restrictions including 6 feet separation and mask wearing at all times. The maximum numbers allowed at venues will be guided by the advice of the Health Department, depending on the venue size.
Teams/Sports persons that participate in public sporting events shall where possible remain in their sport bubble and refrain from other large public gatherings.
“Return to Play” plan must be submitted to the Sports Development Officer. Where applicable a site visit will be made to venues.
Applications that have more than the permitted number of persons attending an event should be made to the Minister of National Security by completing the online form—Exemption Mass Gathering or emailing email@example.com.
There are more details on the stages in the Guidance document, and on the Government COVID-19 webpage, and I invite you to read these carefully to ensure full compliance with the requirements for safe return to play.
Overall, I would highlight that Further to the “Phased Return to Play” guidelines all current and applicable COVID-19 Laws shall apply. Consequently, should anyone test positive within a team or bubble, all close contacts will be required to quarantine and get tested.
I appreciate everyone’s collaboration and patience to date. I know you all share the concern for safety first, and as responsible citizens and sportspeople, I know you will do everything possible to follow these rules and keep yourselves, your families and our community safe.
Sport can be a great equalizer in any community and our Return to Play Guidance acknowledges the importance of sport, while mitigating the risk that comes from the close contact inherent in sport.
My Ministry is pleased to do its part in helping our community find enjoyment through safely attending and participating in sports once again.
We invite and encourage the community to review the information in the “The Return to Play” document which can be found at www.gov.bm.