A sudden return to sporting action would be highly dangerous without a vaccine

A sudden return to sporting action would be highly dangerous without a vaccine
Cork hurler Darragh Fitzgibbon shoots as Pauric Mahony of Waterford looks on in the 2017 Munster hurling semi-final in Thurles. A return to action is still some way off. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

COMMENTS made by a leading medic on Easter Monday brought into the public domain what many sportspeople have been saying privately, that sport isn’t coming back any time soon.

Colm Henry, the chief clinical officer for the Health Service Executive, stopped well short of outlining the main reasons why sport, not only in Ireland, but throughout the world, is in for the long haul.

He explained that easing social distancing measures too soon could be detrimental and undo what has been achieved to date.

“We may be beating that curve down and even crushing it, hopefully in the coming weeks if we all buckle down.

“If, suddenly we all decided to congregate again on beaches and stadiums and matches and wherever else, it will go rapidly up again.

“We’ve learned not just here in Ireland, but abroad, too,” he said.

The one major stumbling block for a return to action of football, hurling, soccer, rugby, basketball and all contact team sports, is the wait for a vaccination for Covid-19.

This coronavirus pandemic has brought the sporting world to its knees with a huge threat to livelihoods, clubs’ survival and even long-established competitions.

And until such time as there is mass production and availability of a vaccine or some form of proven treatment then sport has to remain in mothballs.

All the indicators point to at least a 12-month wait for such a product or products to come on the market.

We’ve all been told repeatedly that the two-metre social distancing measure is working effectively and helping to reduce the rate of number of victims of this deadly disease.

Accordingly, it makes perfect sense to continue with it and not just for now, but even after the declaration that Ireland is coronavirus-free again.

The GAA could lose up to €60m if there’s no hurling or football championship this year and such an eventuality would have major consequences for the system, affecting all levels of the organisation.

Professional sport is under the gravest threat with talk of finishing competitions behind closed doors in an attempt to finish incomplete seasons.

Yet, if you look at the starting position, the obvious initial question would be the health and safety of players coming together to prepare for a resumption of the season.

Unless everyone involved, management, officials and players, was tested and those returned negative results, then it’s impossible to see how even training sessions could begin.

A marked feature of the way Ireland has responded to the pandemic has been our politicians taking their lead from the advice of the medical experts.

And that’s how it should be. This is not the time for politicking, like in the US for example, and we can all see the horror of what’s unfolding in New York.

It’s people like Dr Henry and Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, among others, who will make the decision, when it’s safe for people of congregate in large numbers once more.

So, the prospect of 40,000 plus gathering in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Cork-Limerick in the Munster hurling championship next month or any month soon, simply won’t happen.

The bottom line in all of this is that people playing or attending games in the future must do so in a safe environment.

“While I don’t know what’s going to happen next and there are lots of opinions, nobody knows with certainty,” Dr Henry said.

“It certainly doesn’t seem here in Ireland or internationally that we’re looking at a peak, fall and then back to normal.

“That doesn’t look to be a plausible narrative anymore,” he said.

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