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MWAMBA: Strict adherence to health protocols key to swift return to sporting action

Sunday August 02 2020
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From left: Sports CAS Hassan Noor, PS Joe Okudo and CS Amina Mohamed walk around Nyayo National Stadium on July 2, 2020 after addressing a press conference on various issues around sports. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JAMES ONYANGO MWAMBA

Any casual observer of the manner in which Kenya has (mis)handled the Covid-19 pandemic knows that our salvation lies only in seismic shift in people’s attitudes and behaviour. In the present circumstances, no sector can return to normalcy, not even sports. 

I am very keen to lay my hands on the report of the taskforce constituted by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in June to come up with guidelines for safe return to sports in Kenya. Its implementation will be the most crucial part. That’s a no-brainer, given the manner we have thrown caution to the wind. To quote a report in the Daily Nation last week, “it is business as usual at markets, bars, restaurants, lodgings, sex dens and bus terminuses in Nairobi, the ground zero of coronavirus in Kenya with more than 8,000 cases.”

Since the days of needless panic buying witnessed in supermarkets when Kenya reported her first confirmed case of Covid-19 in March, the numbers have grown exponentially. Today is the 144th day since the first confirmed case in Kenya was reported, and we have registered at least 21,636 cases.

On Saturday, Kenya reported 727 new Covid-19 infections. The country recorded 23 deaths, the highest number ever in 24 hours, raising the death toll to 364, according to data from Ministry of Health.

We have shown blatant disregard to health protocols and we are paying a heavy price. Fewer people are wearing face masks in offices, matatus and public places. Matatu operators who diligently provided hand sanitisers to every passenger no longer do so and are blatantly violating directives on seating capacity. If you question the absence of hand sanitizers in matatus and you are patient enough to withstand the foul-mothed tirade, matatu touts in Nairobi will tell you to your face that cleaning hands is for people going to eat in hotels.  

In our private spaces, the ‘beer pressure’ is on. We have insisted on binge drinking and holding wild night parties in private residences even after President Uhuru Kenyatta banned sale of alcohol in food joints and restaurants during the 10th Presidential Speech on Covid-19 update.

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Before the ban on sale of alcohol in hotels and restaurants, public figures no less than a senator and former world marathon champion had been caught playing hide and seek with law enforcement officers while drinking way beyond curfew hours. The cheek of it, public figures with bloated egos who feel they are above the law!

This underlines the hard work that awaits team officials, sports administrators, stadium safety officials and Sports Kenya officials in enforcing health protocols in stadiums once sporting activities resume. The report compiled by the taskforce on the return to sports in Kenya under the leadership of Sports Administrative Secretary Noor Hassan Noor is ready and will be launched soon, but the hard part will be implementing it. Together with guidelines from Ministry of Health and global sporting bodies such as World Athletics and the European Golf Tour, the report will be a key point of reference when Kenya hosts Nairobi Continental Tour on September 26 and the Kenya Open Golf Championship from November 12-15.

The Sh126.87 million Kenya Open Golf Championship and Nairobi Continental Tour (Kip Keino Classic) are the only international sporting competitions Kenya will host this year following postponement of 2020 World Rally Championship Safari Rally and 2020 World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Already, Kenya Open Golf Championship has announced that the tournament will be closed to fans as is the case with other European Tour events around the globe. Only the media, scorers and other staff will be allowed in. Even caddies will be lucky to get in.

When Kenya hosts Kip Keino Classic, the seventh and final event in the newly-launched annual series of elite global track and field athletics competition, the whole world will be watching to see how well we comply with health protocols issued by World Athletics. The Tour forms the second tier of international one-day meetings after the Diamond League, and will feature 200 metres, 3,000m steeplechase, discus, hammer and triple jump which have been removed from the Diamond League.

The Local Organising Committee will be required to, among other things, provide each arrival at the airport with a welcome bag that includes single-use masks (three per day, minimum), bottles of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a leaflet to explain the health and safety protocols for the event.

Inside the stadium, spectators and accredited personnel will use two completely separate entrances. Accredited personnel will only be granted access to the competition venue if they are wearing a face mask and have a personal hand sanitizer. During competitions, starting blocks and relay batons will be cleaned between each race and chlorine added to the water jump for the steeplechase. Face masks will be worn by everyone in the stadium, with the exception of athletes when warming up or competing. Masks will also be worn in call rooms which will be in an outdoor location, and chairs will be disinfected between each use.  The sooner we start observing health protocols, the better.

Mwamba is a Senior Sub-editor at the Nation Media Group. [email protected]

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