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Team SA Update on Coronavirus

In light of the increasing concern related to the evolving coronavirus outbreak, it is important that athletes and officials that are preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games stay informed and understand how to best protect themselves from illness. This update is informed by information collated from the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and South African Health Authorities and includes direct extracts from previously published guidelines.

Situation Update: Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

According to the latest update provided by the IOC on 3 March 2020, preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games continues as scheduled. Athlete health and well-being remain a top priority for organisers, and extensive measures are in place to ensure that effective countermeasures against infectious diseases are implemented for the Games. A joint task force was created in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and WHO. There is a multi-institutional approach to defining guidelines and best practice to ensure athlete and spectator safety. The IOC will keep supporting the athletes by providing the latest information and developments, which are accessible for athletes worldwide on the Athlete365 website.

Situation Update: South Africa Risk Profile

On 5 March South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases confirmed the first positive test in the country. In the latest WHO situation report dated 4 March 2020, there were no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in South Africa but this is yet to be updated to reflect activities of 5 March.

Recommendations for International Travel

Athletes may encounter travel disruption as several countries and airlines around the world implement precautionary measures, including screening and quarantine measures. Travel restrictions to/from other countries are largely the result of decisions taken by the local national public health authorities. Such measures have impacted several international sport events around the world, and athletes are encouraged to check travel advices regularly and to consult with competition organisers for specific advisories and/or decisions prior to travel. National Olympic Committees are awaiting further clarity from the IOC/IPC about how this may or may not impact qualification for the Games.

In the interim, SASCOC advises that athletes who have already qualified for the Games should limit all non-essential travel, including travel for competitions or personal travel particularly to geographical locations at higher risk.

Preparation plans should provisionally be adapted so that athletes continue preparation in South Africa which is currently declared a low risk country.

Prevention of Illness

In terms of managing the spread of the virus, the following principles apply:

  • The WHO does not recommend any specific measures such as isolation unless people experience any symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness either during or after travel.
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for 25 seconds duration, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment and use alcohol based hand rubs (applied to clean hands); regularly and before meals
  • Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals;
  • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practise cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash their hands) and if this occurs after travel, report as soon as possible to health care practitioners.

Do not act against any travel advice from the WHO, SA Department of Health or the relevant local authorities of the country you intend to visit.

The below is a useful youtube video from the WHO that gives more information about the coronavirus:

Issued by Team South Africa Medical Advisory Commission

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