Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, right, speaks at the Yukon government’s weekly COVID-19 update press conference on Aug. 26 as Premier Sandy Silver looks on. The Yukon government has released new guidelines for contact sports that will allow for games and tournaments to be played under certain conditions. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon government releases new COVID-19 rules for contact sports

Yukon Sport says it’s a relief for residents trying to plan their winter routines

Basketball is on again — as long as teams are ready to dunk the ball into sanitizer after the game.

The Yukon government released new guidelines Aug. 26 on how residents can return to the ice, field and court for contact sports.

“I’m very glad these new guidelines can be available,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. “Part of the guidelines are mini-leagues, so games and even tournaments can be arranged within that cohort so that you’re allowing normal contact that might occur within play so you can have games.”

The new guidelines will apply to both children and adults for sports that can’t accommodate physical distancing between players, including hockey, soccer, volleyball and basketball.

All players, coaches and parents will be required to follow facility plans, in addition to avoiding spitting, handshaking and blowing noses without a tissue. The number of participants on the field or rink is being limited to 30 per game.

Larger leagues are being asked to create “mini-leagues” with a maximum of 60 players, not including coaching and officials. This will allow teams and competition to continue with reduced risk of transmission and easier contact tracing.

Players are being restricted to involvement in just two mini-leagues at any time.

“Before this, everyone was really in limbo trying to figure out what the national body regulations meant in a jurisdiction like ours. We’re very different from downtown Toronto, for example,” said Sport Yukon executive director Tracey Bilsky.

Bilsky said some organizations, including the women’s hockey league, have been able to plan the season based on early drafted guidelines. Others have been in limbo, waiting to see if access would be allowed.

“With these guidelines our Yukon sport organizations can sit down and start to plan. This is when everyone is planning their Yukon winter, and how to stay sane in the dark and cold. It’s such great news, compared to a couple months ago,” she said.

Players and spectators are still recommended to physically distance whenever possible, including before and after games, and continuing with hand hygiene practices. They are also being asked to not participate with any illness symptoms, no matter how mild.

It’s also recommended that equipment and change rooms are disinfected after use, and that players come dressed in full gear when possible.

When change rooms are needed, staggering times to allow for physical distancing is being encouraged.

Players and leagues are also being asked to refer to the guidelines released from national bodies for each sport. For example, Hockey Canada has released COVID-19 Safety Guidelines that include things like isolation protocols, dressing room and practice protocols.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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