Don’t let your guard down
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 3, 2020 - 12:00am

If you think the pandemic is slowly going away like a bad dream coming to an end, perish the thought. We’re fighting an unseen, treacherous and extremely dangerous enemy. There are many ways the coronavirus can penetrate your defense. You can’t afford to let your guard down.

GCQ has been extended in Metro Manila for a reason. Although the condition hasn’t slid down to MECQ, failing to progress to MGCQ means Metro Manila remains in a restrained situation. At least, the economy has opened up a bit. More and more access to public transportation is allowed. But everyone is reminded to wear facemasks when going out, to practice social distancing and to stay home unless it’s absolutely essential to leave.

Offices aren’t operating in full force at the moment. Some malls and restaurants are prohibiting entry of senior citizens not to be discriminatory but to be safe for their own good. For over three months, people were cooped up at home to avoid the risk of infection outdoors. It’s understandable that after being locked down, we can’t wait to be out again.  But at what risk? What a waste of hibernating for over three months if you throw caution to the wind and leave home unnecessarily because you think business is back churning and the pandemic is on the way out.

Under GCQ, the IATF has permitted the restart of non-contact sporting activities with proper health and safety protocols. Running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian and skateboarding were the sports listed as allowable. Under MGCQ, mass gatherings for sporting events may be held with a 50 percent venue capacity limit. But it appears that boxing will not be allowed even under MGCQ despite the GAB submitting stringent health and safety protocols to the IATF’s Technical Working Group in a proposed restart. What may soon be given the green light is training on a limited scale for 5x5 and 3x3 basketball in MGCQ cities or towns. The problem is finding venues in MGCQ areas outside of Metro Manila that are accessible and available since several gyms have been converted into receiving health centers for COVID-19 patients. If games will be allowed under MGCQ, shouldn’t training in preparation for playing the contests be allowed under GCQ but with strict health and safety protocols?

In the NBA, commissioner Adam Silver seems determined to restart the suspended season and launch the playoffs even as more and more players are either testing positive for the virus or opting out. Silver’s decision is based on economic considerations with the NBA expecting to salvage sponsorship and advertising revenue which otherwise would be lost if the playoffs don’t push through.

In the PBA, the consensus is all players will report for practice whenever the league calls. And the league won’t call unless the IATF declares it’s safe to resume training.  No player is opting out. The NBA situation is quite different. There will be 22 teams playing in the restart under a bubble environment with no audience in an 89-hectare complex within Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The NBA is guaranteeing a low risk of infection because players will be repeatedly tested, training and playing conditions will be sanitized and contact tracing will be done religiously. But Silver has indicated that in the event of a serious outbreak, he won’t hesitate to call off the restart. The possibility of a shutdown isn’t remote. In the PBA, there are only 12 teams and so far, no player has tested positive with about 60 percent going through the process.

While the IATF monitors the crisis situation closely throughout the country and there are signs of sunlight peering through the darkness, we can’t be complacent. The pandemic isn’t over. If as they say, defense wins championships in basketball, it’s defense that will keep us safe and beat this virus.

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