Maverick Citizen

Covid-19 and Education

All contact sport in schools suspended with immediate effect

(Photo: Thinus Maritz / Gallo Images)

Announced by the Department of Basic Education on Wednesday, the move comes after a surge of Covid-19 infections related to school sports was reported during the last week of term. Numbers have increased since the start of the second term.

The decision by the Council of Education Ministers to suspend all contact sports with immediate effect, was made in a virtual meeting on Wednesday morning. 

The announcement came amid an increase in Covid-19 outbreaks linked to school sports in Gauteng, since schools reopened for the second term, said the Department of Basic Education (DBE). 

“It is evident that despite following the protocols as guided by the directions on extramural activities and standard operating procedure on the prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 in schools, contact sports events still contribute to the spread of Covid-19,” the DBE said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Following the school sports activities-related Covid-19 outbreaks in Gauteng and [the] general rise of cases in communities across the country, the Outbreak Response Team said that the risk was high when engaged in close-contact sports,” read the statement. 

Apart from this claim, the DBE provided no further evidence or data in support of its decision. 

Only non-contact school sports are permitted, provided that social distancing and other Covid-19 safety measures are observed and that “there is no physical contact between participants during training”, said the DBE. 

“In this regard, all sporting activities have been suspended with immediate effect until the cluster outbreak is over with no further cases reported, including the preparatory school sport. The department will continue to monitor the situation.”

The suspension of school contact sports does not, at this point, include club sports, head of communications for the DBE, Elijah Mhlanga told Daily Maverick. 

“This only applies to school sports… we don’t want school contact sports because that’s where we’ve seen a rise in cases.” 

Mhlanga said the suspension of contact sport has no time frame, but in light of a possible third wave of Covid-19, the department “will monitor the situation and see what becomes of the third wave, and thereafter we will make a decision”.

In anticipation of the announcement, various school sporting bodies, associations and provincial unions expressed concerns about the enforcement of a total sports ban. 

The Association of Public Boys’ Schools of South Africa (APBSA) had “made very particular requests” with regard to the decision and had hoped that the DBE would not enforce a “blanket ruling” on contact sports, said association head, Tim Gordon. 

“We believe that there can no longer be justification for a one-size-fits-all approach. There is a strong belief that cases should be dealt with on a regional, provincial or district level, or on merit,” said Gordon. 

Disappointed in the decision, APBSA had hoped that the department would assess the rise of contact sport-related Covid-19 infections on “a case-by-case and area-by-area basis”, added Gordon. 

“We have been in contact with the South African Schools Rugby Association and provincial unions, in expectation of this announcement. We believe the issues are more regional than a national level, but this decision is purely in the hands of the DBE as custodians of school sport,” an SA Rugby spokesperson told Daily Maverick.

“While we respect their call, as it was done in the best interests of our children and their health, it’s still very disruptive to the schools rugby programme, which only recently got back into full swing. 

“Generally, the schools have done very well in managing the pandemic and have taken the necessary steps where required – it’s very likely that the infections happened elsewhere and not on the sports fields during training or matches,” added the spokesperson. DM

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