Following confirmation by Public Health about COVID-19 protocols for children and young people who are contact traced, the Guernsey FA (GFA) has written to all clubs and Guernsey Football League Management with updated guidance and advice.
The guidance issued by Public Health is not good news for local youth football and the children and young people who would be participating after it was confirmed that any child who has been identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case in an educational setting, which is being done on either a class or entire year group basis, must enter COVID-19 protocols that require them to take lateral flow tests for 10 consecutive days.
Whilst children can continue to attend school/college during these 10 days (if they do not test positive or display any symptoms) they are unable to attend any after-school or extra-curricular activities during that period. This includes football, other sports, dance, drama and activities such as Scouts.
Guernsey FA Chief Executive Officer, Gary Roberts, commented that:
“The updated guidance issued by Public Health today will inevitably have a significant and negative impact on local youth football, along with other sports and activities covered by what Public Health define as ‘extra-curricular activity’. Whilst the GFA is fully supportive of the need and importance to ensure children are still able to consistently attend education settings, this announcement will effectively deny hundreds of healthy children the opportunity to do what they also enjoy and need – to participate in physical and social activity external to the education environment.”
“The States of Guernsey has used the phrase ‘learning to live with COVID-19’, and the island community has done an amazing job of coming together and adapting to the changes brought about by the pandemic. However, for children and young people who are not eligible for vaccination, this updated position is far from living with COVID-19, and in many ways is a return to when the island was exiting Lockdown, with ‘bubbles’ in place that restricted physical activity and social connectivity for young people.”
“Local football clubs, along with the wider community, has consistently shown an ability to effectively manage risks brought about by COVID-19 and ensure life can continue and this updated position for children and young people should be given further consideration. There is the risk that children could end up in repeat 10-day protocols and unable to participate in physical activity on a consistent basis despite being healthy and never testing positive – the question now is whether that is fair and proportionate and to the GFA it isn’t. Education is very important, but so is physical activity and it is difficult to understand how children in these COVID-19 protocols can attend schools, and be educated in indoor environments, but cannot enjoy and befit from outdoor physical activity, which is widely recognised as being of less risk.”
The GFA is acutely aware of the potential impact these COVID-19 protocols will have on local youth football and will work closely with all stakeholders to identify practical solutions. The GFA also has every confidence that all clubs are now well positioned in terms of COVID safety protocols at football grounds and have mitigated risks wherever possible and practical. This situation does not mean that all youth football should stop, but what it does mean is that clubs will need to be vigilant and take
practical and realistic decisions about whether training/matches should proceed until such time as these protocols are removed.