Malawi National Council of Sports has recommended the immediate suspension of all team sports activities following the rapid rise of Covid-19 cases that has culminated in President Lazarus Chakwera declaring a State of National Disaster.
As of Tuesday, the pandemic had killed 254 people in the country, with 69 of the deaths (about 27 percent) occurring within 12 days since January 1 2020.
In an interview yesterday, Sports Council acting executive secretary Henry Mereka said: “There is that declaration from the State President and all sectors, including sports, have to respond because sports is key and vital as it attracts big crowds. Suffice to say, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 is reviewing the guidelines and we’ll have to wait for its guidance and direction.
“Nevertheless, we shall immediately be advising our member associations to take drastic action and where we have team sports, they should be put on hold for now because we have reached a critical situation.
“We need to exercise caution and protect the lives of the athletes and officials. So, for now, team sports will have to be completely avoided.
“Our main concern are team sports because they cannot manage physicall distancing in a match.”
Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 spokesperson Gospel Kazako, who is also Minister of Information, yesterday welcomed Sports Council’s recommendation, saying: “We are almost at war and in a battlefield, you use every tactic to defeat your enemy.
“In this case, our enemy is the pandemic and every idea that is seen to fight the pandemic, is supposed to be appreciated.
“Sports Council is the authority in the sports sector and if that is the wisdom, then it is welcome.
“However, we take it as a suggestion and it will be discussed by the committee [Presidential Task Force on Covid-19] when we get it formally because all decisions are made by this committee.”
Netball Association of Malawi general secretary Carols Bapu said while they will wait for official communication, they are in support of Sports Council’s recommendation.
“The situation is really getting critical. As an association, we have to protect the lives of our athletes and stakeholders. Only health-minds and people can ably participate in the sport.
“The pandemic is getting worse and we just have to adhere to any measures that will be put in place,” she said.
However, Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu said it would be imperative to wait for the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19’s guidance.
“I think the best way is to wait for the task force’s advice on the way forward and we would be guided by whatever they say because they are experts.
“The issue is to take the message from the State President seriously,” he said.
Currently, the TNM Super League is the only major team sport event taking place while netball is scheduled to resume this week with the Under-20 Botsalt Southern Region Netball League.
In March, sports activities were also suspended to control the spread of the virus and the suspension was lifted in September by the task force.