A week after a lockdown was enforced on India and professional sport cancelled and postponed for the foreseeable future, reports have emerged of various members of the Sports Authority of India National Institute of Sports, Patiala, openly discarding social distancing and self-isolation protocols given by the government.
Despite instructions of Sports Authority of India (SAI) to follow guidelines, staff members including security guards, hostel wardens, gardeners, cleaners, kitchen staff, local nutritionists and physios, and on-campus health workers of the medical department have been gathering in large numbers and also meeting outsiders. It has become increasingly difficult to ensure social distancing with around 200 staff members residing in the campus.
Due to this, the foreign coaches and athletes are gravely concerned about the possible spread of Coronavirus in the campus.
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“A couple of days back, some of us coaches went to the grocery store in a small group and maintained a proper distance,” a coach was quoted by the Times of India in its report. “But we saw a huge rush of local residents and no one was following social distancing. We returned to our rooms immediately. Even one person can spread the virus. Social distancing is for everyone, not just for coaches and athletes.”
“We observed that our kitchen staff has been meeting people who are locals known to them and coming from outside. Some of them could be seen coughing and sneezing. Well, the kitchen and people preparing the food reside on the other side of the campus, but the same food comes to us,” another was quoted by the same publication.
“I haven’t been to the mess since then and got my food in my room. Similarly, when I frequented the ATM at the main gate the other day, I saw seven-eight people assembled inside the ATM room. It’s a worrying situation. We have brought this to the knowledge of the Executive Director. Hope he does something about it,” he added.
SAI Director Sandip Pradhan said that extreme cautions would be taken to ensure the safety of the athletes and coaches.
“The ED has been told to take necessary measures as per the provisions of the acts. The ED has been implementing directives in all sincerity. The incident you are talking about is an old issue and happened a few days ago,” he said.
In the midst of this latest controversy though, athletes, including Hima Das, have written to the Sports Ministry asking to be allowed to train outdoors in the campus -- a move that has won support from Deputy chief national athletics coach Radhakrishnan Nair.
Even as Indian sport displays a callous outlook towards physical distancing and enforcing lockdowns, warning signs of the effects of Covid-19 have emerged from other parts of the globe.
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Nine Hungarian Swimmers tested positive for a coronavirus test on Tuesday and has forced the Hungarian Swimming Federation to contend with the reality that more testing will reveal more positive results soon. The reports of these first nine came to light after 200m butterfly WOrld Champion Boglarka Kapas tested positive following training camps with teammates, Dominik Kozma, David Horvath and Richard Bohus.
Kozma told national media that swimmers were tested four days apart and “dozens” who returned a negative test on the first occasion subsequently tested positive on the second. The five other cases are yet to be named.
Large numbers of national team members from the Hungarian team were in camps in South Africa, Turkey and Thailand just as pools were starting to shut down across the world. Some of them have yet to hear back from testers.
One confirmed case of Covid-19 -- and in recovery -- in a sportsperson has come from Aston Villa goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Reina who is on loan at VIlla from Napoli recounted his gruelling experience with the virus and in particular the “worst moments of his life” which left him unable to breathe for around 25 minutes.
“The most difficult moment was when I could no longer breathe, the 25 minutes I ran out of oxygen. It was the worst moment of my life,” said Reina, who started to experience the symptoms about two weeks ago. He added that it was “only now” that he was “winning the battle against coronavirus.”
India has seen a jump of over 386 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the largest single day jump, taking the total number of cases in India to 1,637, including 38 deaths.
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