PUTRAJAYA: With the sports sector now allowed to reopen, the Youth and Sports Ministry is calling for strict adherence towards Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) at all times during sporting activities.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Naina Merican said getting the National Security Council (MKN) to allow sports to resume under the movement control order required some “tough” convincing.
“One of the hardest things to do was to convince the MKN that sports and recreational activities are not harmful and not a major source of Covid-19 transmissions.
“During MKN meetings, I had to make presentations and persuade the council to allow sporting activities to resume slowly.
“But if we look at the existing data, it is shown that there have not been any infection clusters resulting from sports.
“Compare this to clusters coming from factories, shopping malls or eateries.
“I do understand the concerns of the Health Ministry in allowing sporting activities so it is important to convince them we can organise sports activities and strictly follow Covid-19 SOPs at all times.
“Now that the government has given the green light for over 160 sports and recreational activities to be held, my advice is for everyone involved in the sports sector to practice the SOPs and keep safe at all times, ” Reezal said in an interview with The Star Monday (March 15).
Reezal believed that those who are active in sports are those least likely to be the cause of spreading Covid-19 infections.
“I believe those who are active in sports are those who will always adhere to the SOPs. Now that these sporting activities are allowed back, I am sure they will do their utmost best to ensure SOPs are followed at all times.
“Also, there have been studies to show that practising a healthy lifestyle and being active in sports can boost a person’s immune system.
“So in a way, being active in sports can help to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. We read that most of those who succumb to Covid-19 are the vulnerable and those with underlying problems. But the young and the active are seldom affected, ” said Reezal.
Reezal said sports and recreation activities should also be viewed as more than just a “social activity”, as it is also a source of livelihood and part of the economic ecosystem.
“In an engagement session with industry players recently in January, we noted that on average, a sports operator loses RM300,000 a month due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Could we imagine how many people’s livelihoods are affected?
"We have to see that the sports sector also contributes to the national income through sports industry investment and commercial sponsorships, among others, ” he said.
With the resumption of the Malaysian Football League in March, the ministry have now embarked on plans to allow spectators at stadiums.
Reezal said the plan is to slowly begin with a maximum of 4,000 spectators at the stadium.
“If we are able to allow cinemas to reopen, logically, there should not be a problem with allowing spectators at a football match.
“Of course, we must ensure that SOPs are adhered to at all times, ” said Reezal.
The ministry is expected to present to the MKN this week on spectator management protocols to allow football fans at stadiums.