The organisers of the 2021 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball European Championships B in Lahti, Finland, have outlined a series of measures to help ensure the safety of teams.
Two days have been added to the schedule to allow athletes and team officials to quarantine for 72 hours on arrival and not have any contact with anyone outside of their team. All countries will now arrive at the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center on 22 January.
The facility is a self-contained complex, allowing a larger ‘goalball bubble’ to be established following the initial three-day isolation period and another round of tests.
On arrival at the Finnish border all team members will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result, done within 72 hours of travelling. This must also be validated by a team doctor from the national federation or Paralympic Committee.
Masks must be worn and social distancing observed at all times during transit, as well as regular handwashing and sanitisation.
Individuals are also required to be proactive with their own health and wellbeing, and are requested not to travel if they are experiencing any symptoms. These include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose.
Once at the Pajulahti complex, teams must stay in their ‘country bubble’ for 72 hours, only leaving their rooms (wearing masks) to eat and for practice. No contact with any other countries, Local Organising Committee (LOC) staff or officials is allowed during this time. Team Managers only will be permitted to visit the hotel reception on arrival.
Organisers have carefully scheduled meal times and practice for each country to facilitate these precautions.
On 25 January all Pajulahti 2021 participants will be tested in a specially organised session at the Pajulahti Sports Center. Tests will be carried out at each team’s expense and results available within two hours via text message.
If all team members return negative test results, they will be allowed to compete during the opening round-robin games on 28 January and mix with other countries in the wider ‘goalball bubble’ according to social distancing.
If one or more team members tests positive for COVID-19, a second test will be carried out to confirm the results. If this is still positive the person will be required to isolate for seven days, the team will have to quarantine for 10 days and the country will be withdrawn from competition.
The tournament itself, which runs from 28-31 January, will take place according to IBSA Goalball’s Back to Competition guidelines.
All players and officials are expected to stay alert, wear masks and social distance and report any symptoms to the LOC throughout their time in Finland. Any team or team member found to have left the Pajulahti complex at any time during their stay will be disqualified.
Alexey Baryaev, the Technical Delegate for Pajulahti 2021, said: “I would like to thank the LOC, their supporters and partners, for their work and determination in ensuring that the Euros B can take place in the safest way possible. A huge amount of effort has gone into this process and I am confident it will be a great tournament which is both secure and enjoyable.
“IBSA Goalball hopes that teams are reassured by everything being put in place, and asks for their cooperation in protecting themselves and their friends and colleagues in the wider sport community.
“Precautions should be taken before athletes and teams leave for Finland, and whilst travelling, to help minimise the risk of infection. These include isolating, wearing a mask and good hand and cough hygiene. We recognise the restrictions and requirements being put in place may present challenges, but we ask for their understanding as we all adapt to a new normal during these unprecedented times.
“We are all excited to get back on court and bring goalball back to the international stage, where it belongs.”
The full COVID-19 protocol from the LOC of the 2021 IBSA Goalball European Championships, which contains further details of actions and requirements, can be found here
International guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 from the World Health Organisation can be found here.
Further advice on the return to sport from the International Paralympic Committee can be found here.
IBSA’s partner, the World Blind Union, have published a series of resources on COVID-19 and how it relates to people with visual impairments here
The World Blind Union also held a Facebook live on orientation, mobility and personal safety during the pandemic here.