Sun | Oct 25, 2020

No discipline, no fans - Mansingh says crowd control critical to possibility of spectators attending Champs 2021

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2020 | 12:13 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Spectators fill out the bleachers at the National Stadium to cheer on their respective schools’ athletes during the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships in March 2019.
Spectators fill out the bleachers at the National Stadium to cheer on their respective schools’ athletes during the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships in March 2019.
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Sports physician Dr Akshai Mansingh says that the discipline of spectators in adhering to COVID-19 protocols may prove an obstacle to the chances of them being allowed to attend the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships (Champs).

ISSA is planning for next year’s competition after seeing this year’s event cancelled in March because of the pandemic.

While Mansingh said that the prospect of fans being allowed to return to the National Stadium for Champs in March is dependent on the current health situation, he said that a possibility exists to allow spectators at a limited capacity.

“One of the ways to do it is with limited spectators with proper distancing,” he said. “The disadvantage of that, obviously, is that it depends on the discipline of people to ensure that they stay in the marked areas where they can fit and that they don’t move unsupervised. That seems to be far-fetched in a society which has shown little evidence of discipline in mass gatherings.”

Jamaica is experiencing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, with the total figure at 5,143 cases and 70 deaths as of yesterday.

Some European countries have allowed fans back into their stadiums at a reduced capacity for their events. In Italy, the government allowed for up to 1,000 fans to be in attendance for all Serie A football league matches. In Germany, the Bundesliga permitted fans to return at 20 per cent capacity in all venues, with no away fans present, no alcohol allowed, and a ban on standing.

Hydel High School track and field head coach Corey Bennett said that while protocols may have to be more stringent, he is hopeful that fans could be allowed to attend.

PROTOCOLS MUST BE observed

“Hopefully at that time [you can] have a 5,000 limit, maybe a 10,000 limit,” he said. “That should be comfortable as long as the protocols are observed. [But] the sanitisation has to be up. The temperature checks have to up and you may reach the point where a person would have to have some clarity or some medical report to even buy a ticket. And even though that maybe a stretch, I just think that once you have the protocols for distancing, then I think that would be able to afford some amount of viewership in the stands.”

Sports Minister Olivia Grange did not commit to a timetable for allowing fans to return to sporting events when asked by The Gleaner in July, as some local sports were given authorisation to return.

Mansingh suggested limiting fans with a possible restriction of the sessions that they could attend during the five-day championships. However, he said that any scenario to bring back fans for Champs would have to be carefully planned.

“The worst-case scenario is that [there] is community spread as it is now, and therefore no spectators are going to be present,” he said. The best-case scenario is that we are COVID-19-free and there are no restrictions. And then what we have to do is sort of see how we can phase in the possibilities between those two extremes.”

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com