9 September 2020 – This was the first sporting event that had to be done in this manner amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
No other sporting code has done it this way on the continent that I have been aware of. Preparing for the event had challenges. However, rolling out the event itself was even more hectic because we had to be meticulous and thorough.
The medical risks that came with putting people together in one area outweighed the risk of COVID-19 outbreak.
Among the major risks of this exercise was the possible outbreak of Influenza (FLU) since this is airborne. There was also a risk of diarrhoea because food had to be prepared in one common area and transported to all the bio bubble hotels. So, if there was one slight error in which something was not done properly, there could easily had been disaster.
But through everyone’s involvement and attention to detail, this event was a great success, with very little incidents.
Yes, we did have one case of COVID-19 from a club official and this happened a few days into the bubble. Incidentally, the official had tested negative twice before entering the bubble. He then started developing symptoms in the bubble.
To show that the systems put in place were absolutely amazing, we picked that he had symptoms and immediately isolated him and he was tested again.
After getting a positive result, which came the same day of testing, we then had to test the whole team but fortunately, all tested negative. The official was released from the bubble and replaced by another.
The other challenging issue for most of the people was the fact that the environment was so strict that most people felt like they were in prison. But the strict rules had to be imposed and implemented.
A lesson learnt is that South Africa is blessed with so much talent. Impossible should never be part of our vocabulary and when we work together we can achieve anything. This is evidenced by hosting a successful FIFA World Cup, the first ever on the African soil and the First bio-bubble on the continent.
Doctor Thulani Ngwenya is SAFA’s Chief Medical Officer and serves on various international sporting codes.