WHILE recognizing the urgency for national athletes to resume their training for competitions amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) asserted that such should not be done at the expense of proper health and safety protocols.
In a recent media conference where it gave its yearend report, the PSC, through its chairman, William Ramirez, said that in pushing for the resumption of training, all concerned must not cut corners because so much is at stake, including lives.
In line with this, the PSC came up with a 10-point protocol designed to guide stakeholders in resuming training, particularly for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games and Southeast Asia Games next year.
The PSC protocols became all the more significant as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the lead agency in the government’s coronavirus pandemic efforts, last week allowed national athletes to resume their training albeit under a “bubble” setting, where they have to be holed up in a controlled and safe area to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
For Mr. Ramirez, regardless of whether training will be done in a bubble or not, the bottom line is health and safety protocols must be established and followed for any resumption to succeed.
“It does not matter if it’s a bubble or not, it’s the same. For me, we have to be extra careful in that. If we don’t have the proper protocols, it will be useless because, eventually, we will have to put a stop to it,” said the PSC chief.
Given that, Mr. Ramirez shared the set of protocols their agency crafted, guided by measures already established by the World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Health (DoH), and the IATF.
On top of the protocols is the formation of an expert group among stakeholders to aid in the interpretation and give advice on any unusual and expected results of tests.
The quality of the test must also be ensured and it should be in accordance with stipulations of local public health authorities.
The testing, the PSC said, is to aid preventive measures, which should be implemented at all times.
Completing the PSC protocols are:
o For close contacts of positive cases, quarantine and daily monitoring of temperature and symptoms is a must, and consider a test out of that quarantine every day.
o Before athletes gather, consider doing two swab tests six days before the event, regularly testing follows.
o For those asymptomatic, immediate retest and immediate repeat testing of the initial sample must be considered. Correlate the test result with the symptoms and pre-test probability as well as consider antibody testing.
o Interpret results of the pre-test probability. If the athlete has 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 diagnosis.
o For unusual test results, discuss with the expert group. Consider repeating the test as soon as possible within 24 to 48 hours.
o Post coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test be maintained as positive for months because repeat testing is not recommended within 90 days after infection. Consider antibody testing two to three weeks after the initial infection.
o And for positive cases 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.
Mr. Ramirez reiterated that they made the protocols strict so as resumption efforts would not go to waste just as he enjoined all athletes, national sports associations, and other stakeholders to follow the guidelines.
The PSC is expecting national athletes to resume their training next month. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo