There will be no secondary schools’ athletics championships this year, it was announced Wednesday, a day after Jamaica confirmed its first case of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, Richard Thompson said the event had been cancelled following a meeting involving officials from ISSA, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and title sponsors GraceKennedy.
The event had been scheduled to be held March 24-28 at the National Stadium.
“ISSA had a meeting with its executive to discuss concerns regarding the championships, especially with the new information that we have just confirmed the first case of the virus in Jamaica,” the Jamaica Gleaner quoted Thompson as saying.
“The members of the committee were principals of schools and they expressed concerns about the safety of athletes, spectators, and the country generally. Our position was that we were prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect all concerned,” he added.
Thompson said Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, Sports Minister Olivia Grange and an official from the Education Ministry had shared ISSA’s concern and recommended that this year’s championships be cancelled, “especially given the fact that a lot of persons would be travelling from the diaspora and many of those countries have widespread cases of COVID-19”.
The decision follows Minister Tufton’s announcement the day before that Jamaican schools would not be participating in this year’s staging of the prestigious Penn Relays track and field competition in the United States because “travel and the location could involve levels of risk that we would like to discourage”.
That event was scheduled for April 23 to 25 in Philadelphia.
Meantime, the Kingston City Marathon (KCM) has also been called off. Nicola Madden Greig, co-chair of KCM said that while all was in place for the eighth staging of the four-race event – which includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K race/walk and annually attracts over 5,000 participants and spectators from several Caribbean islands and other countries – organizers were mindful of their responsibility “to comply with the mandates of the Ministry of Health as we all work to prevent the potential for community spread of the Coronavirus”.
More than 121,500 people in 114 countries have been infected with COVID-19 and over 4,300 have died.