New Zealand Omicron outbreak hit sport events



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Strict rules apply on venues in New Zealand Image: sports.ndtv.com

Looking to manage the outbreak of the Omicron variant in the community, the New Zealand Government has introduced ‘red traffic light’ restrictions that will impact sporting activities across the nation.

The Omicron variant is wreaking havoc in the country. New Zealand has recorded 15,104 COVID cases and 52 deaths.

The ‘Australasian Leisure Management’ stated that with the entire country moving from the Orange traffic light setting to Red from 11.59 pm on January 23rd, the new restrictions will impact gatherings, hospitality, sport, and events.
 

Events and attractions

  • Events may go ahead at Red with vaccine pass requirements; and
  • Public facilities such as libraries and zoos can also open at Red with restrictions.

 

Sport and recreation

  • People can attend sports events and play sport at Red with vaccine pass restrictions; and
  • Indoor and outdoor recreation facilities can also open at Red with restrictions.

 

Gatherings

  • Under the Red alert level setting, gatherings can go ahead, with and without vaccine passes;
  • However, there are capacity limits of up to 100 people for homes, and up to 100 based on one-meter physical distancing in public venues with vaccine passes; and
  • Up to 25 people can gather at a home, or up to 25 in a “single defined space” at other venues, without a vaccine pass.

 

Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup unaffected

New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson has eased fears that the restrictions could impact the Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup, which is set to be held in March and April.

Speaking at an unscheduled presser on January 23rd, Minister Robertson said the cricket tournament was not expected to be affected, commenting, “We don’t know how long this will last. The Women’s Cricket World Cup organizers have been planning for this tournament to take place in the red setting, and it can absolutely do that. Bear in mind, when we brought the red setting in it is possible to use the defined space rules to effectively have pods of 100 people as long as they maintain social distancing and come into and out of the venue separately.”

The Super Smash T20 cricket is set to continue, with matches being played behind closed doors and it is likely that Super Rugby will follow a similar plan when the season starts on February 18th.
 

Tough times ahead

The ‘Australasian Leisure Management’ further stated that Shane Harmon, Chief Executive of Wellington’s Sky Stadium, has stated that “the next six months are probably going to be some hardest for the (event and venue) industry since the pandemic broke.”

He said on January 22nd, in advance of the New Zealand Government’s introduction ‘Red Traffic Light’ restrictions, that given what he had seen from how the Omicron variant was impacting events and venues overseas, the red alert announcement had not come as much of a surprise, noting, “We can only really roll with it and adapt. It hasn’t happened yet, so we’re proceeding as normal”.

Harmon said the red setting still provided some flexibility over Level Two including the possibility of separating attendees into sections of 100 people or fewer in the stadium, adding “That could work for sports but large-scale exhibitions and concerts most likely wouldn’t occur. Under the current traffic light system at least teams would be able to proceed with their broadcast obligations but crowds are going to be very small and, of course, no one’s going to be making any money.”

For spectator sport, the restrictions will impact Super Rugby trial games in the coming weeks and also flow over to affect the Super Rugby Pacific competition, which is due to start on February 18th with a clash between Moana Pasifika (a rugby union team made up of players from various Pacific island nations, including Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands) and the Blues (a New Zealand professional rugby union team based in Auckland) at the 30,000-capacity Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.

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