Testing dilemma for Premier League
As organisers of the National Premier League (NPL) wait for the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) to approve protocols for the start of the 2020-21 season, measures for COVID-19 testing during the campaign are yet to be determined.
Among the plans for the new season proposed by Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts on September 22 are that approximately 600 players and staff are expected to undergo COVID-19 testing as part of the process to facilitate the proposed start date of November 14. However, the process which was expected to start on September 28 has not yet taken place, with JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint saying to The Gleaner on Sunday that the JFF halted testing until health protocols are approved.
MOHW Director of Emergency Dr Nicole Dawkins-Wright said that they do not currently have a testing protocol for asymptomatic persons. While she said that the Federation would determine its testing process, she advised caution on this approach.
“The testing for screening purposes by the MOHW does not include NPL stakeholder as a sub-population. “The JFF would define its screening policy as it relates to testing,” she said. “The MOHW however cautions use of same in this scenario at this time, given the evolving science for testing assays.”
When asked on September 22 about testing during competition, Ricketts said that the specifics are still being determined.
“Obviously that is something that we will have to do, but we have not worked out those details,” Ricketts said.
As the league intends to play in central locations rather than a biosecure environment, sports physician Dr Akshai Mansingh says testing would have to be increased because of the heightened risk of exposure.
“Testing is dependent on exposure,” he said. “If persons are within a bubble, then clearly your testing doesn’t have to be as frequent,” Mansingh said. “[But] the more exposure you have to the community, the more often you have to be tested.”
Jamaica’s number of positive cases has increased dramatically from 894 cases as of August 1, to 7,012 cases and 120 deaths as of yesterday.
Mansingh said weekly testing could be done as a means of being extremely cautious and that testing wouldn’t have to be as frequent if players are required to isolate. However, he said that the challenge would be ensuring that those players follow said protocols until June 30, the proposed end of the season.
“If you have the players isolate in their communities, then you wouldn’t have to test as often, but how can you tell if somebody is isolating between now and June?” Mansingh said.