School sports: No spectators for National School Games as MOE steps up coronavirus measures

Students-athletes at the National School Games Opening Ceremony on Jan 21, 2020. They will now compete in empty stadiums and halls as spectators will not be allowed at the competition venues. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Student-athletes at the ongoing National School Games (NSG) will now compete in empty stadiums and halls as spectators will not be allowed at the competition venues.

The move is part of precautionary measures by the Ministry of Education (MOE) following recent developments to the coronavirus situation here. On Tuesday (Feb 4), reports of the first local transmissions of the virus prompted the decision to suspend assemblies, camps, mass celebrations and other large group and communal activities in schools.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mr Krishnan Aravinthan, director of physical, sports and outdoor education at MOE's Student Development Curriculum Division, said in a statement that the measures were implemented on Wednesday and that the NSG will continue as planned.

"Temperature taking and travel declaration will be implemented for match officials, instructors and coaches," he added.

An estimated 60,000 student-athletes will compete across 29 sports in the NSG, which runs from January to August.

Organisers of other sports events and leagues here have also implemented precautionary measures to try to limit the spread of the virus, which has killed nearly 500 people and infected over 20,000 in China.

The Singapore Sports Hub regularly organises mass sports activities such as the ongoing National Stadium Open House and this weekend's KpopX Fitness, which is aiming to enter the Singapore Book of Records for the largest number of participants. Over 1,000 out of the 1,400 available slots have been taken up.

A Sports Hub spokesman said the events and activities will go ahead as planned, though they are expecting a "slight drop in the number of participants" at the open house.

Noting that temperature screenings are already in place for ongoing events, the spokesman added: "Additional measures may be implemented if required and patrons will be duly updated should there be any changes in the following days."

National sports associations such as Singapore Athletics (SA), the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Netball Singapore have cancelled or made changes to their events due to the virus.

SA has called off this month's National Age Group Race Walking Championship, cross-country championship and a pre-NSG meet.

The Singapore Premier League kicks off this month, and a FAS spokesman said they are "currently working together with the relevant authorities on finalising the appropriate measures and protocols for our upcoming events".

Netball Singapore has cancelled the opening ceremony of the Netball Super League (NSL) at Our Tampines Hub this weekend.

Its chief executive officer, Mr Cyrus Medora, told ST that the six participating clubs have been offered two options regarding spectator ship: closed-door games, or to allow spectators on the condition that they sign a declaration form confirming that they have not visited China in the last four weeks. Spectators would also have to declare that they are not currently ill and undergo temperature screenings.

"Only Netball Singapore club members and supporters related to the players will be allowed in - we are trying to keep it within the fraternity," added Mr Medora.

"We want to give peace of mind and we hope that this will reduce the risk."

Four clubs have indicated their preference to allow spectators, with one of them being the Sneakers Stingrays.

Their coach, Mr Goh Seck Tuck, said: "Sports without spectators isn't sports anymore. We can allow spectators to come but make sure that they take their temperature before entering.

"Everyone has to take responsibility. If you are sick, you should see the doctor, but we cannot stop people from coming down to watch; it doesn't sound right."

Additional reporting by Kimberly Kwek


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