In a statement issued by the Professional Game Board (PCB), a fresh Covid-19 strategy for the elite game will mirror the 2021/22 season operations.
Designed as a strategy that will incentivize players and management from the elite game [in England] to be fully vaccinated. From Monday September 13, the policy will allow Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Allianz Premier 15s, or Championship Rugby clubs to relax some elements of the current Covid-related Minimum Operating Standards (MOS) once they reach a vaccination rate of 85% in both the player and staff groups.
In a prepared statement, it laid out the new approach and the PCB remains committed to the two core principles of protecting the health of all players and staff and reducing the risk of any disruptions to matches or training.
New Covid-19 strategy for elite game from Professional Game Board
Chris Booy, chair of the PBG said; “The health and safety of everyone involved in the elite game is our priority and we know it is vital we ensure the vast majority of players and management are fully vaccinated as soon as possible. It is still a personal choice as to whether you receive a vaccination, but we want to strongly encourage as many players and staff as possible to be vaccinated so that we can proactively contribute as much as possible to the safety of our wider communities and of our players, staff, and supporters.
“Whilst we hope that there will be no need to reverse any of these proposed changes, the PGB will continue to review all MOS in line with Government advice.”
Some may question the recent 180-degree changes in Government Covid-19 strategies yet for the sake of the sport’s sustainability, aiming to have all participants buy-in to practical steps individuals and clubs can do (in both the men’s and women’s games).
Once a club reaches a level of 85% vaccination status in both the overall playing and support staff groups the following relaxations may be applied subject to club risk assessment:
- Social distancing for players and support staff can be removed both indoors and outdoors
- Masks will be recommended but ‘no longer compulsory’ for players and support staff both indoors and outdoors
- Masks must still be worn by players in the medical room
Match Day Environment
- Social distancing for players and support staff within the Red Zone is no longer required. This will apply to all areas of the Red Zone including the changing rooms and substitution benches.
- Masks will be recommended but no longer compulsory for players and support staff both indoors and outdoors.
- Medical staff will continue to wear appropriate PPE for the role that they are undertaking and masks must still be worn by players in the medical room.
- Where there is a match that is played between a team that is less than 85% vaccinated and a team that is more than 85% vaccinated, only the team who are more than 85% vaccinated will be able to apply these new MOS. Any team that is less than 85% will still be required to follow the current MOS in full.
MOS Testing protocols still in place
- Given the relaxing of these other measures, the Professional Game Board believes it is important that the current testing processes remain in place whilst any impact of the above changes are being evaluated.
- All clubs will still, therefore, be required to conduct a minimum of two lateral flow tests (LFTs) per week, however, the earliest time-point when a pre-match day test can be undertaken will move from match day minus two to match day minus one (no change at Championship and AP15s).
- The testing requirement for all external visitors remains unchanged and any Red Zone match day staff will need to take a LFT on match day minus one or on match day itself, regardless of vaccination status.
NB: For the avoidance of doubt, a fully vaccinated person is currently defined as two weeks post their last dose of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved vaccine.
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“Main photo image courtesy of PremiershipRugby.com”