The 2021 Cosafa Cup will proceed as planned from next week despite hosts South Africa announcing level four Covid-19 lockdown, the second highest in the hierarchy and includes travel restrictions as well as public gatherings ban.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that his government was increasing the lockdown from level three to four effective yesterday.
Though international travelling is still open, South Africa has banned all public gatherings except for funerals restricted to 50 people.
Ramaphosa said the situation will be reviewed on July 11, but that it does not mean regulations will be relaxed.
But Cosafa general secretary Sue Destombes said in a statement yesterday that the regional football tournament will not be affected by the lockdown because “the updated government gazette clearly states that professional sports events around the country may continue, as long as the appropriate precautions are put in place”.
She said Cosafa, along with the South African Football Association (Safa), have created a bio-secure environment for the teams, officials and organisers of the tournament in Nelson Mandela Bay, replicating the successful ‘bubble’ for the four tournaments staged in the Eastern Cape at the end of 2020.
Destombes said: “Whilst there is a need to implement stricter measures to deal with the current statistics, the President of South Africa, in his address to the nation on 27 June 2021, was clear in that daily life and business in particular, should continue.
“The restrictions on inter-provincial travel do not apply to transit through OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and travel for the purposes of business is permitted. Cosafa has already put in place strict Covid-19 protocols to ensure the safety of all role players, including operating within a bio-bubble and playing matches behind closed doors.
“Cosafa, hosts Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and agencies of the South African Government have extensive experience in staging events in the midst of the lockdown, having hosted four competitions in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2020, and with professional domestic football and international matches continuing.”
Meanwhile, Flames players started trickling in yesterday to start preparations for the tournament.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said Central Region-based players were expected to arrive yesterday.
He said: “Silver Strikers, Civil Service United, Blue Eagles and Mafco players underwent Covid-19 tests and have all tested negative. They will, therefore, report today.
“Northern Region and Southern Region-based players also underwent the tests, but they are waiting for results.”
The players will be under assistant coach Lovemore Fazili who also tested negative 14 days after he tested positive for the virus.
But head coach Meck Mwase, who also tested positive of the virus and missed Malawi’s international friendly against Tanzania, is yet to be cleared.
“Mwase has just finished his 14 days isolation and will be retested tomorrow [today],” said Zakazaka.