Are sports coaches who move across condos a weak link in S'pore's Covid-19 fight?

Outdoor sports can continue with some restrictions.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Last Saturday (May 22) was like any other weekend at my condominium swimming pool, perhaps too normal considering the wave of Covid-19 infections.

A swim coach was seen providing one-on-one lesson, each lasting about 45 minutes, to several children in quick succession. I could not but wonder if this was risky, more so if the coach moves between different private pools the same day to conduct lessons.

From May 19, under the phase two (heightened alert) measures, all indoor in-person classes - including all kinds of arts, culture, religious and sports programmes - have been suspended for those aged 18 and under until June 13.

Meanwhile, all Ministry of Education (MOE) schools have moved to home-based learning until June 13 as well, to reduce "the intermingling of students from different schools", MOE said.

But outdoor sports can continue with some restrictions. For instance, only two persons, including the coach, are allowed for all activities of high intensity where masks have to be removed.

There can be no multiple groups of two.

However, coaches are allowed to move from student to student, and across locations.

A Sport Singapore spokesman told The Straits Times on Wednesday (May 26): "There is no prohibition to hold multiple consecutive classes for one child (or) youth at a time as long as there is no intermingling during class transition. Coaches may also conduct one-on-one classes at multiple locations."

Indoor lessons, for sports and non-sport activities, face more curbs under current restrictions.

For instance, those aged 18 and under cannot be coached indoors.

Also, indoor sports sessions are only allowed if they involve low-intensity physical activities, sport and exercises with all participants and instructors wearing masks at all times. There are capacity limits depending on the size of the location.

The setting may be different, with activities conducted outdoors and not indoors, but the one-to-many ratio did lead to a Covid-19 cluster in a Learning Point tuition centre earlier this month.

A tutor at the centre located in the east tested positive for Covid-19 and in turn infected nine pupils from five primary schools. To date, 28 cases, including family members of the pupils are linked to the tutor, a 50-year-old Singaporean woman confirmed to have Covid-19 on May 12.

This was followed by another round of quarantine involving 11 students and a teacher from another tuition centre, Wang Learning Centre, after they had come into contact with a Covid-19 positive student.

If the outdoor environment is deemed safe for sports for one-on-one coaching, even without masks on, does it mean private tuition can be conducted as long as one-on-one lessons are outdoors?

It would not be wise to take chances.

Private piano lessons for my Primary 6 child have stopped to avoid the inevitable intermingling of households through a common tutor.

My child's gymnastics club has also cancelled all in-person activities even though these are conducted in a well-ventilated gymnasium. There are not enough coaches to provide one-on-one lessons for close to 50 children.

Investigations on how the Covid-19 virus managed to spread and result in many large clusters in Singapore - including those at Westgate, Jem and Changi Airport - are still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation and the United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have accepted that the virus can spread through the air.

Stricter measures are tough on livelihoods. Coaches earnings will be affected.

But more lives will be impacted if gaps in our restrictions - like allowing swim or tennis coaches to move across different housing developments - spark more infections.