April 29, 2020 / 10:35 AM / a month ago

Sports must first resume safely at lower levels, WHO expert says

(Reuters) - It will be easier to bring back community level sport such as Parkruns as the coronavirus lockdowns are eased than bigger events due to the risk of travel from larger gatherings, a member of a World Health Organization expert group said.

FILE PHOTO: Participants take part in a parkrun event at Bushy Park in London August 2, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall

However, the lessons learned on marshalling and enforcing social distancing at such local races or a small-scale soccer match could help with the management of elite gatherings such as major marathons when they are possible, Brian McCloskey said.

“The bigger the competition the more complicated mitigating actions will have to be and therefore the less likely it is that they can be done safely,” McCloskey, a member of the World Health Organization Novel Coronavirus-19 Mass Gatherings Expert Group, told the BBC.

“So an event that involves lots of travel across the country or between countries ... (it is) much more complicated to see how that happens. A local event, community football, running ... much easier to see how that happens.”

McCloskey said community events, in which a limited number of people join in near their homes, could then provide professional contests with information to help organisers scale back up to events drawing athletes from all over the world.

“If you look at something like road running, if we go back to Parkruns, you could start those because they don’t involve a lot of travel around the country,” he said.

“Involve local communities, you can manage how it’s done and in doing that you can learn how marshalling can help with social distancing in a run.

“That helps you work out ‘how can I do a city marathon?’, and ultimately ‘how can I get the London Marathon and Boston Marathon back up again?’.”

The World Players Association, an association representing some 85,000 athletes around the world through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries, said on Tuesday professional athletes should not be rushed back to action.

The coronavirus has infected more than 3.11 million people globally, causing more than 216,600 deaths, prompting a shutdown of business, education and world sport.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams

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