How much does sports contribute to the high COVID case numbers?

All local sports clubs and gyms are completely closed now, taking away a necessary outlet for exercise and mental health from many nationwide.  Conn McGillion investigates whether sports activities were spreading the Covid-19 virus.

Photo taken by TLC Photography. Sourced from Flickr.

From June to August, there have been only fourteen positive cases reported nationwide across all sports clubs within GAA, rugby and football, according to documents received by the HSE in accordance with the FOI (Freedom of Information) act. According to the documents, under five of these cases were reported from within Dublin, and the other nine cases were scattered around the rest of the country. These cases came after all sports clubs had restrictions lifted in June to train in a controlled environment.

Prior to the second lockdown, diagnosed cases were at an all time high. 1000+ case daily have become the norm from August to September. Only fourteen cases nationwide across three months is indicative that sports clubs, and gyms, are not a primary spreader at all in comparison to the likes of restaurants and factories. In fact, many of those cases come from one isolated incident.

An example of this would be in the GAA. Claughan United in Limerick had tested a player positive in mid-August, and the safety precautions were immediately taken. The player, who was asymptomatic, was instantly placed in quarantine, along with the entire club and the local rugby club, Shannon RFC. Claughan released a statement at the time, suspending all club activities indefinitely, after careful consideration was given to correct procedures regarding self-isolation and efficient testing.  

The majority of the cases came from a club in Clare, Cratloe. Cratloe had six players who tested positive for Covid on the 7th of August. While they quarantined those initial positive cases on the day, they initially continued their activities – as the virus began to spread, they were forced to abruptly put a stop to their training. 

While cases such as these are reckless, they are not indicative of how the majority of sports clubs react – many of the sports clubs are happy to abide by the government guidelines, and adhere to them properly. Sports-related case numbers are not comparable to large outbreaks in the likes of meat factories and pubs. 

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has recorded 2,736 outbreaks in other settings such as nursing homes, workplaces and private houses. It is also reported 1,500 cases alone were reported from meat factories. Clusters, which involve more than one outbreak case, are commonplace in these more social areas.

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