July 2022, Articles

Keeping the Kiwi team healthy and safe in Birmingham

While the experiences of Tokyo and Beijing have been important in planning the health and safety protocols for New Zealand athletes in Birmingham, HPSNZ Head of Performance Health, Dr Bruce Hamilton, says the playbook for these Games is quite different.

Bruce and the health team have been working with NZOC to put in place protocols which reflect the changing COVID-19 environment and the local organising committee’s (LOC) own protocols in order to keep the New Zealand Team healthy and safe in Birmingham.

With the COVID-19 environment now at a different and evolving stage from that experienced in Tokyo and Beijing, the New Zealand medical team, including HPSNZ Health lead Bruce Hamilton, has the goal of ensuring athletes “reach the start line”.

The processes and protocols detailed in the Birmingham 2022 Covid-19 Playbook have been designed based on what Bruce describes as proportionate risk.

“While we know there is no ‘zero risk’, we have not adopted a heavy-handed approach, rather our guiding principle is the need for collective responsibility to get our athletes to the start line.”

One of the key differences for the health team in Birmingham compared with Tokyo and Beijing is that there is no ‘bubble’ and no daily testing for COVID-19.

“The Olympics last year and earlier in 2022 operated in a closed bubble, with athletes going into the bubble having tested negative and undertaking daily tests to continually assess their status,” says Bruce.  “Furthermore, unlike Tokyo and Beijing, the Commonwealth Games will have spectators at all venues meaning there is the potential for athletes, coaches and officials to cross share public concourses, a factor which has also guided our planning.”

Because testing doesn’t differentiate between an old or current infection and given athletes need to test negative to get into the Games, Bruce says they have had to develop a cautious approach.

“New Zealand’s protocols include a three-pronged testing regime.

Team members are required to COVID-19 test 10 to 14 days prior to their departure, 72 hours before arriving at the Games Maanaki/Welcome Centre, and again on arrival at the Centre before being allowed into the Games Village.”

A positive test at any stage in that process may result in a delay in getting into the village and beginning final preparations.

The COVID-19 test 10 to 14 days prior to departure (which is not required by the LOC) is designed to assist in identifying any team members that may have positive tests as a result of recent (or not so recent) COVID-19 infections.  This knowledge will directly facilitate athletes and support entry into the village 10 or so days later!

Bruce says managing the health of the team will be made more challenging with athletes spread over five villages, including one in London.   “Once athletes are in their village, we will continue to monitor their health and support them in achieving their goals in Birmingham.”