Tue | Sep 21, 2021

Francis defends SIGMA Run - Running Events CEO says limited participation in event allowed for safer protocol management

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 12:17 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Competitors cross the starting line for the women’s 5.5K race at the Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run held in St Andrew yesterday.
Competitors cross the starting line for the women’s 5.5K race at the Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run held in St Andrew yesterday.
FRANCIS
FRANCIS
DAWES
DAWES
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Running Events Jamaica Chief Executive Officer Alfred Francis says that the expected scrutiny of the invitation race of the Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run made it imperative for all protocols to be strictly followed. The 2021 Sagicor SIGMA Corporate...

Running Events Jamaica Chief Executive Officer Alfred Francis says that the expected scrutiny of the invitation race of the Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run made it imperative for all protocols to be strictly followed.

The 2021 Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run was held primarily virtually but had an invitation only race held in New Kingston yesterday, which Francis says included less than 100 participants. However, the event drew criticism because other sports have not been given approval to resume despite the Government mandating their restart on a case-by-case basis.

Francis says that while track events with potentially 2,000 athletes would be challenging to manage compared to events that have only 100, they can be executed once a dedicated team is in place to enforce the agreed-upon measures.

“It can be done, but you need to have a [specific] COVID team different from everybody who are going to see that compliance is met at every stage,” Francis told The Gleaner. “We wanted to make sure that we could provide a template that upon reapplying if another organisation wants to do another fundraiser with us, we have a document, and we have demonstrated that we can execute at the highest level when it comes to COVID compliance.”

Francis said that Running Events requested permission from the Ministry of Health and Wellness in December but were directed to reapply through the Ministry of Sport in light of the Government’s mandate on February 5. Francis said that Running Events got the approval and insisted that there was strict adherence to the protocols.

“We know we wrote an immaculate protocol in terms of how we could execute it and maintain it and not have any spread with [the] correct behaviour,” he said. “So, therefore, we know there was a lot of responsibility that we had.

“In speaking with the Sagicor staff, I told them about the sense of responsibility. I told my Running Events staff and officials who were engaged about the responsibility and the eyes that are going to be on us.”

INVITATIONAL RUN

In explaining the proposal and the measures enacted for the invitational run, Francis said that included strict enforcement of mask-wearing up to the starting line, spacing for participants, adequate handwashing stations for the number of persons as well as constant temperature checks and sanitising. Additionally, Francis said that there were three events that started at different times to avoid mass grouping, and they had a specific COVID-19 team that was responsible for enforcing the protocols.

“We had handwash stations, which were 15 for 100 runners,” he said. “So it would be at least one portable [station] to seven persons manned by persons who sanitised them constantly.

“[For] the hydration stations, the hydration was [placed] in individual bottles, which the runners took up themselves. They were placed six inches apart. The tables were sanitised every 15 minutes. We had medical personnel who were in gowns and face shields who attended to any persons if they were utterly exhausted.”

Dr Alfred Dawes described the run with the protocols as a “bold move” in displaying the country’s ability to reopen the industry but cautioned about the challenges of a perceived double standard given the rise in cases reported. There are currently 7,846 active cases reported as of Saturday, and 458 new cases reported yesterday, the second highest daily total. Additionally, he says that in moving forward with the plans to resume sporting events, antigen COVID-19 testing is a better screening tool to detect the potential of events becoming mass spreaders.

“More than likely, at that event and most other places, you would have asymptomatic persons who will not have [an unusual] temperature,” Dawes said. “For me, the best way of screening, going forward with sports and any mass gathering is to have antigen tests for all participants. I really think that’s where we ought to be looking going forward. We just need to get antigen tests down to a practical cost where it would be feasible for persons hosting these events.”

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com