IATF, DOH evaluating return of contact sports, PBA


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Sports being back to certain normalcy was just placed on a concrete direction as the government, particularly the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) and the Department of Health (DOH), is confirmed to be currently studying whether it would allow the return of contact sports like basketball.

This was according to DOH spokesperson, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who made the statement during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

“Sa ngayon, pinag-aaralan pa rin ng mga eksperto kung ano ang magiging rekomendasyon nila sa contact sports katulad ng basketball,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire emphasized that only outdoor, non-contact sports and fitness activities such as jogging, walking, and swimming are allowed in GCQ areas.

These activities, including opening of gyms up to 50% work force, are now being implemented in Baguio and Benguet since its downgrade to MGCQ..

It will be recalled that Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed a week ago that the government are allowing mass gatherings such as religious masses and services in Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) areas, provided they operate at 50% capacity and observe physical distancing.

“The rule is applicable to mass gathering in general, not just for religious gatherings. Sa MGCQ lamang po,” he said during a press briefing aired by the government channel.

Currently, most parts of the Philippines are under MGCQ, except for Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Pangasinan, Zamboanga City and Davao City which are under GCQ until June 15.

Baguio and Benguet were originally placed under GCQ but appeals from local officials were heard and the favorite Philippine summer destinations’ status was downgraded to MGCQ.

Earlier the Philippines’ premier source of sports entertainment, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), led the charge of bringing back sports entertainment to some sort of track by filing a request to the IATF to allow its 12 teams to hold practices under strict health protocols.

They are still awaiting the IATF’s response to their specific request as of press time.

PBA Vice Chair Bobby Rosales said the return to practice would only involve conditioning and no scrimmages and that their players being free from the COVID-19 disease is a paramount concern.

Not long after, other contact sports like volleyball and football also made similar representations to the IATF.

The PBA’s proposal includes a “no-test, no-practice” policy as well as the standard health protocols such as checking of temperature and social distancing.

A practice session will be composed of four players who will be in their practice gear before entering the practice facility, a trainer, and a health officer.

After the session, the individuals will leave the facility within five minutes in order for the next batch of six individuals to occupy the area.

The practice facilities will undergo a hospital standard type of sanitation, as well as the handling of the participants’ uniforms.

The practice routine is expected to elevate as time goes by until the players can practice together in small groups and eventually back to full team training again.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial reiterated that head coaches of the teams cannot attend the initial practices and can only participate once they can do full practices again.

Four head coaches in the PBA, Ginebra’s Tim Cone, NLEX’s Yeng Guiao, Meralco’s Norman Black, and San Miguel’s Leo Austria, belong to the 60-years-old or up, the age bracket belonging to highly-vulnerable group with regard to the dangers of being infected with COVID-19 and its subsequent consequences.

The PBA suspended its 45th season on March, with only one game played where San Miguel topped Magnolia, 94-78, on March 8.

Marcial further disclosed that if they are given the green light, the PBA could realistically resume Season 45 on October in the form of a single season tournament similar to those of the National Basketball Association and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

He said San Miguel’s win and Magnolia’s loss on opening will still carry over on both teams’ records.

Further, fans of super imports like Justin Brownlee and Chris McCollough may have to wait until 2022 to see them again.

Marcial said in a Philippine Sports Association forum that the tournament format to be adopted in the immediate future is all-Filipino.

He cited the unlikelihood of sufficient number of imports having interest play in the league, their compliance of the 14-day quarantine period, and the difficulty replacing an import due to said required isolation period.

He also said residents of the country will definitely have concerns of the imports come over to play.

The Philippine Sports Commission had already suspended last April all sports activities scheduled until December, 2020 under its wing.

By: Armando M. Bolislis
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