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Health minister awaiting report on incident at the National Stadium

Posted  106 Views updated 6 months ago

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says he is now awaiting a report after the Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF) confirmation that two Costa Rican players who tested positive for COVID-19 played in Wednesday’s Concacaf World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium.

As first reported by The Gleaner on Wednesday night, Dr Guyan Arscott, chairman of the JFF’s Medical Committee, said six members of the delegation from the Central American country, including three players, returned positive tests ahead of Wednesday’s game which Costa Rica won 1-0.

Dr Tufton said that he was aware of the positive findings and has asked for an assessment of the situation as they look to find what could have caused the incident.

“I’m told that results related to two (positives) were known prior to the game,” Dr Tufton said. “The others may have been after, which would raise the concern why the information was known about some and not others. I don’t want to speculate. I want to find out what exactly the situation is,” he said.

Article 9.1 of FIFA’s Return to Play Protocols (RTPP) states that match participants (players, match officials and FIFA match appointees), must do their mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests no earlier than 72 hours before gaining access to the stadium, and the results obtained two hours before departure to the stadium.

The health minister pointed out that he will be seeking to find out the timeline of when the results were known to the relevant parties, to determine if there were any faults in how the situation was handled.

“We would have acted on the information that we had. And if there was anyone who was positive, the protocols are very clear that they would have to be isolated,” said the health minister.

“I cannot imagine that the Ministry of Health would have any results that show members of the delegation, including players, being positive and still having them remain in an exposed environment, whether on the field or on the sidelines,” he said.

“That is what I want to determine and, from there, if there is any need for appropriate action to be taken,” Dr Tufton added.

JFF president Michael Ricketts said that they have written to FIFA regarding the matter. He said the players in question should have been kept from the field of play.

“Our medical team sent off a report last evening (Wednesday night) to FIFA advising them of what would have transpired during the game,” Ricketts said.

“We were made aware that they were at least two Costa Rican players that were on the field of play. At half-time, our medical team and our general secretary (Dalton Wint) had a meeting with the match commissioner and tried to convince them that the players must be withdrawn,” the JFF boss stated.

“He just never decided that was a good go. So they did participate in the game,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts underscored that while he does not believe that it will affect the in-game result, he is hoping that there will be sanctions.

“We are just very disappointed at that. We tried our best to always adhere to all protocols. And for a foreign team to violate our protocols is just very disappointing,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Football Federation released a statement yesterday on the incident saying that, while the two players did test positive for the virus before the game, they were cleared by both FIFA and Concacaf to play, based on their having recovered from the virus. Additionally, they confirmed that there were three new cases and that the proper isolation methods were followed.

“All the documentation was presented proving that the other two players who scored positive (tests) were recovered cases with less than 25 days of having had a positive result for COVID-19. Therefore, based on existing regulations and based on the documentation presented by the Costa Rican Soccer Federation, both FIFA and Concacaf authorised the participation of said players,” the statement read.

“Once the first half of the match against the Jamaicans had passed, the officials of the Medical Commission of the Jamaican Football Federation stated that their recommendation was that the players not participate. This position did not come from any health authority in the country or from a soccer authority.

“The case of the two asymptomatic players who recently recovered from COVID-19 was explained to said representatives, including the laboratory results that showed cycle threshold data that proved to be recovered cases and with a low viral load.”

Article 9.5 of the RTPP states that persons who test positive in the respective host country must isolate for a period of time determined by the local health authorities. The protocols also mention the procedure regarding those who would have recovered from the virus and tested positive.

“As the pandemic evolves, there is increased potential for individuals who have previously recovered from COVID-19 to deliver positive PCR test results, despite having no contagion risk or virus symptoms. The participation of these individuals in the match should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Confederations should oversee the arrangements for assessing each case and advise Participating Member Associations accordingly. Notwithstanding the directives issued by the relevant public health authorities, the confederation’s Expert Advisory Board or equivalent body may exempt such individuals from further testing or, as the pandemic evolves, recommend other necessary steps to prevent the spread and/or reintroduction of COVID-19.”

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