PHILIPPINE Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez will not allow national athletes to train – whether it’s in a bubble set-up or not – unless strict health protocols will be implemented.
Ramirez said the government sports agency will take the lead in ensuring the safety of the athletes even as plans are also being drawn up for some of them vying for Olympic slots to train inside a bubble amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PSC chairman noted that RT-PCR tests and how often it will be done will play a vital role in the resumption of training.
“Ako personally, I’m extremely careful about that. Kapag inallow natin sila at hindi tama ‘yung protocol, isasara din natin ‘yan,” said Ramirez during a virtual press conference on Friday. “If the COVID-19 RT-PCR testing for the elite athletes and other requirements are not being observed, I will not allow any practice, whether it’s bubble or not.”
Training has stopped for the Philippine national athletes ever since the pandemic struck. With training venues also closed and, a few of them, used as quarantine facility such as the Rizal Memorial Coliseum and Philsports Arena, most of the athletes have gone home and some forced to do virtual sessions just to keep themselves in shape.
Ramirez underlined 10 protocols that should be implemented in the resumption of training of national athletes.
- Consider forming an expert group to aid in the interpretation and give advice on any unusual and expected results of this testing.
- Ensure the quality of the test. The test should be sensitive and specific for covid-19. Use of test must be in agreement with the local public health authorities.
- Testing is only an adjunct to preventive measures which should be implemented at all times in elite sporting environment.
- Considerations for close contacts of confirmed positive cases – quarantine and monitor daily temperature and symptom – to consider the test out of the quarantine every day.
- Prior to the athlete gathering, consider performing two swab test six days before the event. Test regularly.
- For asymptomatic athletes who test positive for Covid-19 in screening, consider an immediate retest and immediate repeat testing of the initial sample. Correlate this test result with the symptoms and pretest probability as well as considering antibody testing.
- Interpret the results of the pre-test probability. If the athlete has Covid-19 symptoms, the test should be positive. if symptoms are present and the test is negative, repeat the test within 24 to 48 hours. If negative, consider alternative diagnose.
- For unusual test result, discuss with the expert group. Consider repeating the test as soon as possible within 24 to 48 hours.
- Post-COVID infection. RT-PCR test be remained positive for months, repeat testing is not recommended within 90 days after infection. Consider antibody testing two to three weeks after the initial infection.
- For positive case in the sporting bubble, isolate the case as well as the close contacts and discuss with local public health officials. Consider the RT-PCR testing for asymptomatic contact. Consider testing all close contacts.
Ramirez said the PSC, the Philippine Olympic Committee, and national sports associations (NSAs) should strictly implement such protocols to keep the athletes safe and eliminating the risk that they contract the virus while in training.
“I would like to stress this one. Meron kaming sinulat dito. We will allow training even tomorrow if the PSC, NSAs, POC, and other partners can come up [with this one],” said Ramirez.
The PSC chairman stressed that it will only take one athlete to shut down training.
“Napakastrikto nitong protocol na ‘to. It’s stricter than the PBA,” Ramirez said, referring to the PBA bubble the professional basketball league recently finished. “And if you are not able to observe this, I will not allow any practice. Although there is an autonomy of our partners, we have the judgement to call.
“I will not allow because ang pananaw ng PSC, kapag isa lang ang ma-infect, isasara din namin [ang training],” Ramirez added.