Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Nervous wait

Watts hopeful quarantine issue for overseas-based athletes can be resolved today for Trials

Published:Wednesday | June 23, 2021 | 12:09 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter

As Jamaica’s best athletes get ready to battle for a chance to represent the island at next month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, there is still a lot of confusion around the safety requirements particularly for overseas-based competitors, with organisers of the National Junior and Senior Athletics Championships still awaiting instructions from the Government, 24 hours before the start of the event.

Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association’s (JAAA) Organising Committee Chairman Ludlow Watts is clinging to hope that guidance regarding COVID-19 safety requirements for athletes travelling from overseas will be set in stone today, and ease mounting fear and uncertainty among the hopefuls.

In addition to helping to select the island’s Olympic team, the four-day competition, which will take place at the National Stadium, will also be used to pick the athletes that will represent the country at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

During last Thursday’s event launch, Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange said that a decision regarding quarantine measures would be announced shortly. However, Watts said that there are still details to be ironed out and is hoping for a positive response and a much clearer picture, with the Trials starting tomorrow.

“We are awaiting further communication with them (Ministry of Sports). I hope by tomorrow morning (today) we will know everything that we will need to know,” Watts told The Gleaner.

According to Watts, at least 100 of the over 200 senior athletes who will be participating at the championships will be coming from abroad. Those athletes needed to have produced a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test within 72 hours before arrival in Jamaica.

A 14-day quarantine period is still required for all unvaccinated persons coming to Jamaica, while fully vaccinated individuals are expected to quarantine for eight days.

Watts said that should a quarantine period be exempted for those athletes, they would want them to continue testing protocols.

“In the absence of a quarantine, they would have to do some PCR tests so those are things that we are actually seeking,” Watts said. “These are things that we are trying to get sorted out because we have been trying not since yesterday or last week, we have been trying for quite a while, but things are not going as quickly as we would have hoped.”

According to current protocols, non-resident business travellers would need to be tested on arrival and if a negative result is returned, they would be released from quarantine requirements and required to remain at their intended address for the duration of their stay, adhering to all the local restrictions.

Sprintec head coach Maurice Wilson said that he hopes that there is a workaround that will not disenfranchise those athletes who want to earn their place on the Olympic team.

“I think it is a difficult situation. A lot of them are performing well and if they are not able to compete it would be not in the best interest of the country because all of them have the interest to represent Jamaica and to be an Olympian,” Wilson said.

“I’m hoping that the information would have been sent to them from early and some amount of discretion used to assist in alleviating the costs because I don’t know if these athletes are in a position to pay for additional testing in Jamaica and then to find accommodation and so on during the period,” Wilson added.

When contacted yesterday evening, Grange said she would issue a response today.

Some of the island’s most successful overseas-based athletes are defending 110m hurdles Olympic champion Omar McLeod, star sprint hurdler Danielle Williams, sprinting prodigy Briana Williams, World Championships silver medal winner in the shot put Daniel Thomas Dodd and experienced triple jumper Kimberly Williams and sprinting legend Veronica Campbell Brown.