Due to the world pandemic, the ninth year of the Emil Open European Youth Games for the Disables will take place in September. The organizers are currently dealing with all the regulations and recommendations from the institutions and experts. This is why there is a new position in the team, the so-called “COVID coordinator”. “As a part of ‘fair play’ towards our surroundings, friends and teams, we must follow individual precautions, “says Michal Pospíšil”, who took the position.
Michal, the Emil Open 2020 games will take place in September. The date was postponed due to the world pandemic. There was a new position added to the organizing team - COVID coordinator. What exactly are you in charge of?
My role is primarily consulting and I also serve as a mediator in communication between the organizers and experts. In this case, they are epidemiologists from the Regional Hygiene Station and Faculty Hospital. Together, we are looking for the best solution to comply with the current government regulations in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. The goal is to provide the participants with games where they feel safe.
What precautions are you currently implementing?
We always follow the government regulations. We follow current recommendations and we follow them. We cannot say we “implement” something because most of the precautions have already been implemented. For example, within accommodation or catering institutions, they operate at all times and it is their duty to provide precautions. In this case, we only check and supervise whether everything is sufficiently prepared in the places where our participants will be moving. In the team, we have people who are responsible for individual agendas, for example accommodation, transport or sports fields. Together with them, we solve all precautions and possible regulations or recommendations.
Can you tell the readers what the precautions are at the moment?
Of course, there are more details but in general, it is about a suitable location and provision of hand sanitizers with the emphasis on the most exposed places. Such as entry points, toilets or dining areas. Face masks have been mandatory in many places since September and this is a fact that the participants are acquainted with in the solemn declaration that we require from them. Our team will wear them when moving indoors and outdoors, for participants, we count on face masks when transporting and in indoor places where there will be more that 100 people at the same time. Hand sanitizers will be provided for everyone. We also focus on keeping distance at all venues, whether they are grandstands or catering facilities. We will mark all places with readable pictograms that will appeal to the compliance with standard hygiene rules. About sport venues, we encourage the teams to try to minimize contacts between each other. We also introduced seating in grandstands over one seat. However, I must mention that we constantly monitor the situation and we solve everything according to the current situation. That is why my position was created.
The Games will feature athletes from 13 European countries. Do you solve the security issue of foreign participants in any way?
We pay great attention to ensure that all participants have the best possible overview of the current situation in connection with entering the Czech Republic and monitoring the so-called traffic light. Most participants come from countries that are still in the “green zone”, so similar rules apply to them as before the epidemic itself. However, they cross the borders with the full knowledge that each member with no symptoms (fever, dry cough, olfactory loss, nausea…) has not been in contact with a person tested positive for COVID and did not visit any country that has been marked as risky at the Czech traffic light.
Is it necessary to prove with tests on arrival from a foreign country?
As I already mentioned, this will depend on the origin country of the team. The vast majority of participants are from countries that are marked as “low risk” on the ICRC list, which is epidemiologically good news for holding an international event. Teams from these countries do not need a COVID-19 test at this time, but this does not mean they shouldn’t be informed and check the current information on epidemiological events in the Czech Republic and in Europe. In fact, we do encourage them to do so. In the case of teams from non-listed countries, proof of absence of COVID-19 is a must. In addition, it is necessary to apply for a temporary visa at the embassy of the Czech Republic in the specified country in case the visa-free contact has been temporarily interrupted due to COVID.
Athletes will compete in a total of five summer sports. Was there a restriction due to coronavirus?
The restriction will mainly apply to face masks in indoor areas where there will be more than 100 participants and we recommend wearing a face mask even in outdoor places with more than 500 people. The face mask is not necessary during sports activities. We act on the basis of the regulations and recommendations of the Czech government. Another limitation will be the distance between individuals and recommendations for minimal team mixing. The international meeting will thus lose its added value a little bit, when children of different nationalities meet together but this precaution is essential to reduce the potential spread.
Do participants have to have their own face masks? Will there be any available on the site?
Yes and yes. Own face mask is necessary from the principle of preparedness. They enter the Czech Republic where it is obligatory to wear face masks in several places and they should be prepared for it (public transport, indoor places with more than 100 people, authorities, hospitals…). Of course, the organizers will have a sufficient amount of face masks for all cases, for example if participants devalue it.
Are you going to measure the temperature of participants?
We will not unless it is stated by the government. But I believe it will not. The temperature measurement has only a little informative value. We would also need to have a special equipment calibrated for the specific conditions where the temperature would be measured and we would have to repeat the measurement several times to verify the validity. All this causes too many complications with a little effective result. However, we will provide an individual measurement if necessary. A way bigger effect is a sufficient awareness of participants about when to consult their health condition. We tell all participants that as soon as any signs of illness appear, they should immediately stop sports and contact one of the organizers. If necessary, we will immediately speak to KHS or we will send the participant to the doctor for an examination. In the worst case scenario,we are ready to isolate the participant with suspected COVID during the event and then to proceed according to the recommendations of the Regional Hygiene Station. The most important thing in this regard is the information and responsibility of each of us.
You also provide an accommodation for the game participants. How do you address the security issue there?
A colleague, who takes care of the accommodation agenda, was personally visiting all individuals rooms to make sure that everything meets the set hygienic standard. As I mentioned, individual places have been working in this mode for a long time.
How will the dining be sorted?
The meals will be sorted in accordance with the applicable government regulations. I can simply repeat the precautions we oversee here:
- Customers of dining services are encouraged, by information materials, to keep a distance of 2 meters and to ideally pay with a card.
- At the entry to the indoor and outdoor areas of the dining facilities, the possibility of hand sanitizing is provided for customers.
- Disinfection of chairs and tables is done before seating each new group of customers.
- In the case of dispensing window sales, the disinfection is performed at least every 2 hours.
- If the employee of any service has a body temperature higher than 37 °C or any other COVID-19 symptoms, he is prevented from accessing the facility.
- The operator proceeds to guide the customers to comply with all precautions.
How does our government approach the foreign athletes?
Athletes coming from countries that are on the list of countries of the Ministry of Interior in the “green zone” or with a low risk of infection have similar rules for entry into the Czech Republic as before the epidemic itself. In addition to the usual identity checks, a body temperature measurement can be done at the borders. We notify the teams about the valid precautions that are currently in force in our Republic and therefore they should, of course, be prepared for them before arrival. To be sure, I consulted everything with epidemiologists, we only confirmed the regulations. If someone on the team does not feel well and has some of the typical COVID symptoms (higher temperature, stuffiness, cough, olfactory loss, digestive issues and general weakness), he should simply stay at home in the interest of us all.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that our organizers do as much as they can to ensure the safe course of the event. However, it is necessary to realize that the main responsibility is on individuals and teams. We want the whole event to take place but it is not only about the hand sanitizers and a few pictograms on the wall. It is about all of us, about using the hand sanitizers in the right moment and in a proper way. It is about us, to play fair towards our surroundings, friends and teams, to follow individual recommendations and to wear our face mask when required.