5-a-side football among team sports to resume at some venues for vaccinated persons from Nov 10

All participants must be fully vaccinated and will be required to produce a valid negative pre-activity Antigen Rapid Test result on-site. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Team sports for up to 10 fully vaccinated persons - including players and officials - can resume from Wednesday (Nov 10) at suitable ActiveSG sports centres and People's Association community clubs, the multi-ministry taskforce handling the pandemic announced on Monday.

All participants must be fully vaccinated and will be required to produce a valid negative pre-activity Antigen Rapid Test (ART) result on-site.

Team sports that are set to resume with these new measures include five-a-side football and basketball, while others like hockey and netball had previously adapted team sizes to fit the prevailing rules.

More details will be provided by Sport Singapore later.

The pilot is part of the taskforce's easing of safe management measures (SMMs) in settings that allow for vaccination-differentiated SMMs (VDS) and pre-activity testing.

The use of VDS and ART will also be piloted at selected mass sporting events and selected meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

The latest easing of restrictions follows a previous announcement that current measures may be eased before the stabilisation phase ends on Nov 21, if Singapore's weekly infection growth rate (the ratio of community cases in the past week over the week before) falls below one, and the hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) situation remains stable.

The ratio was 0.81 as at Nov 7, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong during Monday's press conference.

He said: "As we gradually reopen, it is inevitable that a number of Covid-19 cases may rise as seen in our past experience.

"We'll need to continue to protect those who are unvaccinated as they are at higher risk of severe outcomes.

"Therefore, vaccine-differentiated safety measures will continue to be a key pillar of our reopening strategy."

Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong added: "If these pilots are successful, we will consider extending the new protocol of VDS + ART to other settings so that we can progressively resume more activities safely."

Recreational futsal player Idi Bakhtiar was surprised by the news and is looking forward to resuming five-a-side football since stopping in May.

Mr Idi, 41, who before the pandemic played once a month with up to 16 people, said: "With the previous restrictions, it was really difficult to play a game and it didn't make sense to book a pitch with only a handful of players.

"Football being a team sport means the more the merrier in my opinion. For recreational players like us, these sessions are our meet-ups. It doesn't feel the same when it's 2v2 or 3v3. Yes, it's still a game of football but the camaraderie isn't there."

Mr Cheong En Shuo, 27, who usually plays basketball once a week, stopped playing recently as "it's not as fun playing in uneven groups". He welcomed the return of a full court game.

"I enjoy the competitiveness and bonding between my friends and me, and it's quite a good time to not only catch up with them, but also to relieve stress as well," said the public servant. "Hopefully the measures stay the same for as long as possible."

Netball player Valerie Wong was excited to hear about the pilot scheme as her club Xtrix had stopped training sessions since the end of July.

Although players cannot play a full seven-a-side game, she said five-a-side is a decent substitute.

Ms Wong, 24, said: "It's better than no games at all and that's the usual number we have for street netball anyway. With 5v5, there's a wider range of game set-ups you can do.

"I hope this means we can resume our netball leagues and have a semblance of what life was like before the restrictions. It would probably help bring back the friendly competitive environment that has been missing these past two years."

Under the revised SMMs, safe distancing for indoor high-intensity sports and exercise classes and activities will be reduced from 3m to 2m for individuals and groups.

Read next - S'pore eases Covid-19 rules from Nov 10: What you need to know

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