Fri | Dec 3, 2021

Return of sports is a life-and-death situation – Grange

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2021 | 12:07 AMRobert Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Olivia Grange
Olivia Grange

As local sporting organisations continue to grow frustrated with the Government's continued lockdown of the sector, Minister of Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange is calling for calm from the various stakeholders. Grange, who could not provide any updates...

As local sporting organisations continue to grow frustrated with the Government's continued lockdown of the sector, Minister of Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange is calling for calm from the various stakeholders.

Grange, who could not provide any updates or timelines for approvals, says that officials are well aware of the lockdown's impact on athletes, sporting organisations and the industry on a whole, but noted that the Government was forced into its current position, based on the increase in COVID-19 positives across the island.

"I can't say anything definitively at this time (on reopening of sports), the reason being, we are in the middle of a spike, we have had to take drastic actions, and this will be the third week of our weekend lockdown," said Grange.

"I am appealing to those who are critical of us and who are showing some intolerance, some impatience, just to say we are talking about a life- and-death situation," Grange said.

"The minister of health has to report on what has resulted from the drastic measures that we have taken and that will determine the way forward, and so I am just appealing to everyone to be patient," Grange added.

It has been over a year since local sports was shutdown by the Government, but several sporting disciplines remain in the cold after seeing their proposals for resumption being rejected by officials.

Permission was granted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) for the resumption of track and field earlier this year, but due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, this approval was rescinded.

This has left organisers of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships considering a second consecutive cancellation of this year's event.

Grange stated that the Government is concerned about the state of sports in the island and the welfare of the athletes, but pointed to the spread of the virus as a major sticking point.

As of yesterday, Jamaica has recorded a total of 42,119 cases of the virus. There have been 661 deaths from the disease.

"It is not about being insensitive, because I have been doing a lot to show that there are concerns about our sports sector. There are concerns about our athletes and there are concerns that it is impacting their lives, it is impacting their income and it is impacting their opportunities to get scholarships," Grange said.

"We have lost some of our most outstanding individuals and we have a lot of persons who are part of that vulnerable group only because we have had community spread and people who are not observing the protocols, and it is important that we understand that," she said.

Grange noted that an assessment will be made by the Government this week to determine the way forward for the sports sector.

"If we can ensure that we can find space in the hospital for those who come, and if we can ensure that we are in control of what is happening, then we can make decisions that will allow some ease of the tight situation that we have had to maintain," Grange said. "I am just making that special appeal because it is a matter of life and death, and so it is not about allowing our sports sector to play, to run and do what they want, it is about saving lives."

robert.bailey@gleanerjm.com