Return of inter-school rugby: Extremely low chance of Covid-19 player transmission during matches

In good news that coincides with the return of inter-school sports matches in South Africa, analysis the British government’s experts on virus transmission have undertaken on rugby matches indicate that Covid-19 is not being spread during the contact situations that occur during a match.

There were no known cluster outbreaks when elite UK rugby and other sports matches returned. Although no spectators will be allowed at inter-school sports matches in SA, this bodes well for our players.

The British government analysis further held that it is in the intermingling of people after the matches have ended that creates the primary risk of transmission.

Professor James Calder is the chairman of the British government’s committee on the return of elite sport.

He said there had also been no known cases of Covid transmission during football matches. This finding is surely heartening for a similar sports code, hockey.



The British government’s experts have undertaken a series of studies on the risks involved in playing contact sport and the recurring conclusion is that it is not the participation in outdoor sport itself that is the problem.

The actual danger comes from people not following the virus-transmission protocols when it comes to the activity of travelling to matches, changing into match kit for the matches and the socialising that takes place after matches.

Another professor who has been privy to the analysis has gone on record to say that the risks of virus transmission during sports matches played outdoors are extraordinarily low, far lower than the risks faced during the myriad human interactions that occur during the course of a day inside buildings.

Indeed, just the simple act of keeping the windows open (to allow for the air outside) while travelling together in a car or taxi makes a difference in lowering the risk of transmission.



It is widely held that the three ways of catching Covid come from droplets, surfaces or aerosols.

Professor Mike Weed says that it is becoming more widely acknowledged that it is aerosol (the suspension of liquid droplets in air) which is the most significant transmission method, and the professor said “it is virtually irrelevant outside.

The prof went on to say that in his broader study of how Covid-19 has been spread, there were “very few – almost negligible – examples of outdoor transmission in everyday life”.

Adviser to the Scottish government, Professor Devi Sridhar, said the focus must be on the areas where it has been proven that there is a higher risk of transmission. “We need restrictions where we know transmission occurs more often and less restrictions where it is safer. Outdoor transmission is minimal, we know.”



You probably know this already, but just for the record, the South African government’s department of basic education (DBE) has officially sanctioned the return of inter-school sport. No spectators will be allowed.

Based on the DBE’s directive in the government gazette:

The following activities are permitted and may resume, without any spectators, subject to compliance with hygiene and safety measures to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19 (C19), and with social distancing measures pertaining to gatherings:

school sport matches

physical education

extra-curricular activities

inter-school, district, provincial and national school sport tournaments.

A C19 compliance officer must be appointed for each venue

there must only be one controlled entrance to the venue

all participants must undergo health and temperature screening before warm-up or event

any person who enters the venue must undergo the health and temperature screening

hand sanitisers must be available at the entrance gate and every person who enters the venue must sanitise their hands

participants and officials must sanitise their hands before and after a match or event

a person who leaves the venue temporarily and returns again, must again undergo the process of health and temperature screening, and hand sanitising;

for contact tracing purposes only, a register of all officials and learners from visiting and hosting schools who are attending a school match or event must be kept by the hosting school for at least 21 days and must contain the following information of officials and learners:

Full names

residential address

cell phone number, telephone number or email address

contact details of the person or persons living in the same residence as the person attending training or a school match or event

a digital registration and health screening platform, such as the teacher connect application, may also be used to assist with the administration of the registration process contemplated in paragraph

if a person has C19 symptoms or presents with a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, that person must be refused access into the venue

the number of persons, including participants, referees, adjudicators, technical officials, volunteers, medical team, media or broadcasting team, and stadium workers, permitted at a venue at any one time is limited to

a maximum of 100 persons, for indoor venues

a maximum of 250 persons, for outdoor venues

if the venue is too small to hold 100 persons indoors or 250 persons outdoors, observing a distance of at least 1,5m from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

teams, technical officials, volunteers, relevant stadium staff, medical staff and registered members of the media or broadcaster team must leave the venue as soon as their responsibilities are completed

social distancing and the wearing of face masks must always be maintained by persons who are not participating in matches or events;

participants must always wear face masks, except when participating in an event

technical officials must report before the start of any event or competition for a C19 regulations and protocol briefing session and screening

all ablution facilities must be sanitised regularly and kept clean as per C19 protocols

entry to the ablution area will be regulated to adhere to social distancing protocols

all sports equipment must be sanitised before and after use.



Source: Telegraph, Government Gazette, Stock

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