Return to Sport Message from the Honourable Lisa Beare
With each passing week, people across our province and around the country remain committed to bending the curve to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on communities. I know those in the sport community feel the effects of physical distancing and travel restrictions profoundly, as sport and physical activity is such an important part of our collective wellness. I want to share more information about the work we are starting now to plan for the resumption of sport.
As Premier John Horgan announced last week, our government has a plan to restart economic activity, starting mid-May. B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the need for physical distancing will continue for some time. B.C.’s Restart Plan is a way to gradually allow for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public. This isn’t a return to normal, but it’s a hopeful, careful step toward a real recovery for all of us.
We recognize the immense toll this pandemic response has taken on athletes, coaches, volunteers and others in the sport sector. Sport plays such a critical role in people’s mental and physical health. As we’ve all faced heightened stress, we know that not having organized sport as an outlet has been especially difficult. Under our plan, we are confident that the sport sector will be able to restart under enhanced protocols in Phase 2, beginning mid-May.
I have asked the team at viaSport to work with groups in the sport sector in developing a set of guidelines on how to operate safely and start to resume play during this pandemic.
The Provincial Health Officer’s direction is that guidelines should cover three things:
- processes to open safely
- measures to keep people safe to avoid further outbreaks
- and a plan in the event that a case or an outbreak should occur.
The guidelines should consider how organizations will operate for athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers.
Each sport sector will have unique aspects that need to be modified to effectively follow the PHO orders and recommendations. For some sports, this return to play will be easier than in others. For example, sports with limited player-to-player contact will likely find it easier to adapt to the PHO’s parameters around physical distancing. I know viaSport has already reached out to you directly for your advice on what is possible for your specific sport. We ask that you thoughtfully and carefully interpret the PHO’s orders and recommendations as you work with viaSport to develop your guidelines. Our common goal is to support a safe return to sport.
We also know the economic pressure the pandemic puts on the many businesses and non-profits in Sport. In April 2020, the Province, through viaSport, began providing provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations with the ability to access $5 million, which represents 50% of their annual 2020-21 provincial funding allocation, to provide these organizations with access to cashflow sooner. In addition, on March 18, the federal government announced a package for businesses and workers. For a full list of Federal supports please visit the viaSport website.
On March 23, the provincial government announced the B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan, which builds on the federal government’s strategy and represents our first step to provide relief to people, businesses, and service providers in British Columbia. The B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan has several measures that will offer some immediate relief to the sport sector.
As Dr. Henry has said, this is not forever. There is some optimism that we are starting these reopening conversations. If we make thoughtful and careful plans now, we will be able to reopen so people can think about getting get back to work and their livelihoods.
Stay safe and stay well.
Hon. Lisa Beare
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture