Call for sport restart

THERE is ‘no reason’ why Islanders should be stopped from playing outdoor sports and swimming in light of the falling number of active Covid-19 cases, the politician formerly responsible for sport has said.

Senator Steve Pallett. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30149585)
Senator Steve Pallett. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30149585)

Senator Steve Pallett, a former Assistant Economic Development Minister who resigned from the role to support a vote of no confidence lodged against the Chief Minister last year, said he thought there had been a reluctance within government to act swiftly to restart activities.

Deputy Hugh Raymond, his successor, has appealed to the government to issue a timetable setting out when sport was expected to restart (full story: Page 44 of today's [3 February] JEP).

Senator Pallett added that if Jersey had implemented a stricter border policy more quickly – including treating all arrivals as having come from ‘red’ travel zones sooner – then sports clubs might have been able to operate more normally during the pandemic.

His comments come at the same time that health authorities in the UK have warned that restrictions there, including on sport, are leading to increased levels of obesity and mental-health issues.

Senator Pallett said: ‘In terms of outside sport I cannot now see any reason why we should not be able to go back to playing football, for example, and some of the activities that happen outside. That includes events such as Parkrun. I think if it was managed sensibly it could start to get people back outside and more physically active.

‘With regards to inside sports, we are at a point now where there are some activities that are potentially less risky than others, like swimming. If people were not using the changing rooms but were already coming changed, I see no reason why pools could not be opened.’

He added: ‘We are not out of the woods yet and we have still got active cases, but they are decreasing everyday and there just seems to be reluctance to move quickly.’

Meanwhile, Carole Penfold, president of the Jersey Swimming Club, said that as someone who had suffered from Covid-19 she was happy to wait until the government deemed it safe to restart sessions.

‘I have had Covid and I would not wish it on anybody. I think it is just a case of grinning and bearing with it. It is such a shame that kids are not in the water, but it is [also] such a shame they cannot do a lot of other things too,’ she said.

‘Because we live on an island I think it is so essential that we learn how to swim and it is so important to get them learning again, but we need to learn from what happened in Guernsey and how you can go from being completely clear to that suddenly not being the case.

Last week, Calligo Tigers Swimming coach Nathan Jégou said he feared that a whole generation of competitive swimmers could be lost if restrictions continued. And Mrs Penfold said she thought it would be difficult to hold extra sessions to enable children to catch up on any lost swimming tuition.

Speaking this week, Chief Minister John Le Fondré said the government would wait to see how the opening of non-essential retail would affect case numbers before deciding whether to allow sport to restart.

‘We have said we are going to ease this cautiously in stages. The next stage does include low-to-moderate-intensity indoor exercise – for example, swimming,’ he said.

‘With regards to outdoor sports – football or rugby, for example – where it is in groups, even though it is outside, there is probably quite a lot of breathing and airborne droplets. That is why the medical advice from that perspective is, unfortunately, to postpone it at the moment.’

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