Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 29, 2021 (SKNIS): Given the stark reality of the COVID-19 pandemic globally, and the need to exercise precautionary measures in light of the highly transmissible and deadly coronavirus – especially in relation to large sporting events with massive crowds – the National Covid-19 Task Force met with St. Kitts and Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) Executive on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, to consult on upcoming major football tournaments.
Representing the SKNFA were Stanley Jacobs, General Secretary; Geoffrey Hazel, Technical Director; Dexter Tyrell, Office Manager; and Donald Freeman, President of the United St. Paul’s Football Club. The delegation was led by Anthony Johnson, President of the SKNFA.
Mr. Johnson notified the Task Force of the upcoming CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and the proposal to hold qualifying matches in the Federation in March and June with Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Guyana. The Task Force was also informed of the local President’s Cup, Champion Cup, premier matches, and the Under-13 and Under-15 Leagues, events which should end by August 15, 2021.
Additionally, Mr. Freeman, reported that the United St. Paul’s Football Club is interested in having its team, who is the present champion, represent the Federation abroad, but was concerned about quarantine costs upon the team’s return to the Federation.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, impressed upon the SKNFA Executive the need to be careful going forward with the number of persons gathered in one space at any one given time. She also emphasized the importance of strictly following all the safety and health protocols, especially given the threat now posed by three new variants of the virus originating in the United Kingdom (UK), Brazil and South Africa. She noted that the UK variant was already present in at least three Caricom territories and that it was far more transmissible and deadly than previous strains of the virus. The dramatic rise in cases of Covid-19 in neighbouring islands was also cause for concern for our Federation, the CMO added.
Minister of Sports, the Honourable Jonel Powell, corroborated what the Chief Medical Officer said, and added that the Department of Sports in collaboration with the Cabinet recommends that the football tournaments be held without spectators. He said that the Department of Sports is supportive of the local leagues, as long as there is consistent adherence to the health and safety protocols by everyone.
Chairperson of the Disaster Mitigation Council, Honourable Vincent Byron, reminded the gathering that “we have a situation in our Country that is not normal, and we would expect all our citizens and institutions to understand that.” He strongly stressed the need to restrict massive gatherings and proposed that international competitions be live-streamed in the absence of spectators.
The health and safety protocols with respect to quarantine and testing were also discussed with the football executive, as well as the need to carefully assess the risks associated with the local team playing in matches both overseas and with visiting teams.
In closing the meeting, the Task Force recommended ongoing discussions with the SKNFA Executive to arrive at a decision that would redound to the health and safety of all involved and the Country as a whole.