Haufiku concerned over contact sports

By Michael Uugwanga

COVID-19 committee member and former health minister, Dr Bernard Haufiku says the resumption of contact sports could pose a big risk to players amid the increase of Covid-19 cases countrywide.

Haufiku said it only makes sense for contact sports to resume once there is a drop in the pandemic cases.

Namibia is currently under stage four of the state of emergency (except for Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis); a stage in which contact sports have been given the green light to resume.

However the resumption of sports such as football, netball, rugby and boxing will still remain a big challenge in containing the spread of Covid-19, something that Haufiku says needs serious attention.

So far, athletics, tennis, squash, football and horse racing have already started with their activities countrywide except in the three coastal towns, while boxing is expected to resume in September.

In neighbouring Zambia, football resumed last week, while in South Africa, football is set to resume on August 8 despite that country having one of the world’s highest Covid-19 cases recorded.

Speaking in an interview with Confidente Sport, Haufiku said although sport codes like netball, hockey, squash and athletics are slightly different from others such as football, boxing and rugby in terms of high risk, serious precautions need to be put in place.

“Well it will depend on the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the country at any given time and the risk of transmission associated with it. The higher the risk, of course the lesser it will make sense to open up sports such as boxing, wrestling and rugby which are contact sports. Hockey, netball and athletics may be slightly different but even then, one has to be extremely cautious with opening up any sport code and it must be guided by directives from the Ministry (Ministry of Health and Social Services).

“It poses a risk to players and spectators’ alike, especially boxing or wrestling, a serious one for that matter which could be fatal. We do not want sport-related fatalities or even incidents,” he said.

Under stage four, gatherings are limited to 250 people.

Haufiku who is also the chairperson of the Namibian Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board (NPBWCB) will have a big decision to make on the upcoming AC Boxing and Fitness Gym boxing bonanza scheduled for September 26 in Windhoek.

The September bout means that boxers will have to be tested for Covid-19.

“It just needs to be done in accordance with a set of guidelines and be well coordinated. NPBWCB’s decision to or not to sanction a fight will depend on the overall prevailing state of the pandemic at the time of hosting the event. The board will further be guided by the national guidelines on Covid-19 response, specifically public health measures that are in place at any given state of the pandemic. The lesser the risk of transmission in any given locality in the country, the more likely we are to sanction a fight in that particular area, while the opposite of that applies for high risk areas,” said Haufiku.