According to an article in The Guardian, the U.K. government told professional athletes last week that they can return to training as they did before the coronavirus outbreak. Social distancing guidelines have been in place in the U.K. for two months, and citizens are only allowed to leave their homes to exercise once per day. Now, pro athletes will be able to get back to their regular lives (if they deem it safe to do so) and pre-coronavirus training schedules.
Athletes who choose to get back to training full-time have to “opt in,” and they also need to be cleared for return by a doctor in a one-on-one “check-in.” In these check-ins, athletes will have a general health examination and they will be informed of their personal risks of catching COVID-19. Once cleared, they can return to their clubs, gyms or high-performance centres, although training will continue to be done on an individual basis at these sites and social distancing measures will still be taken.
This is the first step in the process of returning to training. The next step, which won’t be taken until “Public Health England and medical experts say it is safe to do so,” will be to eliminate social distancing measures and to reintegrate physical contact between athletes.
“I know our sports stars are keen to get back to training and this guidance will enable them to do so in a safe way,” Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told The Guardian. “Our top priority is protecting the health of athletes, coaches and support staff. Enabling athletes to get match-fit is an important milestone towards restarting competitive sport behind closed doors.”
A stipulation of this return to training is that each club and sport has to name a “COVID-19 officer.” These officers will oversee the measures that their sports or clubs take to ensure their athletes are as safe as possible when returning to training.
“It is important to note that the publication of this guidance does not mean that all Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes should return to training straight away,” Sally Munday, U.K. Sport chief executive, said. “Each sport will need to make a risk assessment against the guidance and determine what is best for both their athletes and staff.”
The government also stressed that athletes and staff who feel it is not safe to return to training just yet cannot be penalized by their clubs or governing bodies.