The World Health Organisation, on Wednesday, declared COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) a pandemic. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has already forced the cancellation and postponement of sporting events across the globe which includes IPL.
India’s IPL may also suffer from a similar fate as IPL is a cricket extravaganza event with jam-pack crowds and an event of mass gathering of people. There is also a strong chance that IPL 2020 may take place behind closed doors avoiding large crowds and gathering of people.
The Indian government has indicated that it will not stop sporting events if they adhere strictly to health-ministry guidelines not allowing mass gatherings. IPL’s Governing Council is all set to meet on March 14 in Mumbai. The main agenda of the meeting is to discuss the fate of the tournament.
Kiren Rijiju, India’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports in a statement on Thursday announced that the future of remaining matches of the ODI series between India and South Africa is yet to be decided. The 3 match ODI series began on Thursday with the first match being played in Dharamsala. The second ODI will be played in Lucknow on March 15, and the 3rd ODI will be played 3 days later in Kolkata on March 18.
Kiren Rijiju said that the guidelines on mass gatherings were overseen by a group of ministers that was put together Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“All international events in India have been canceled,” Rijiju told the media. “But we are telling sports federations, we are telling all to comply with the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and formulated by a group of ministers which is constituted by the Prime Minister. So any sports body in India should ensure [the guidelines are followed].”
Asked specifically about the IPL, Rijiju said that the tournament may happen with closed doors. “We are not stopping the game,” he said. “We are just telling to ensure that there is no mass gathering. A precautionary step is very important for the health of the country.”
As IPL always has sold out stadiums, Rijiju said the organizers would need to ensure that the safety of the “people” is not put at risk. “That is the guideline. The health of the nation is more important than anything. If matches happen the organizers would need to put in place all infrastructure including screening machines. You cannot hold a match without that.”
He added: “We are not saying anything to stop the match. We are just saying: even if they go ahead with the match, ensure that guidelines are followed. People’s health cannot be put into danger.”
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare put out an advisory on mass gatherings in a statement released on 5th March saying: “Experts across the World have advised reducing mass gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus disease. In view of the above, it is advised that mass gatherings may be avoided or possibly be postponed till the disease spread is contained.
“In case any such mass gatherings are organized, States may take necessary action guide the Organisers on precautions to be taken as per the risk communication material already sent so as to avoid any Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases and Influenz Illness (ILs) including Covid-19.”
The Indian Sports Ministry also has issued an advisory to various national sports federations across the country. Their statement reads: “You are advised to adhere to advisories issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and ensure that no public gathering takes place in any sporting event. In the event, the sporting event cannot be avoided, the same could be done without allowing the gathering of the people, including spectators.”
The Sports Ministry also spoke on the clampdown of several types of visas issued to travel to India. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020, at the port of departure,” the government statement said.
Since the players come under employment or project visas, the government ban is unlikely to leave any effect on the tournament.
According to WHO, 118 countries have been affected by COVID-19. Approx 120,000 people have been infected across the globe with over 4,300 dying because of the same. 73 positive cases of Indian’s affected by Coronavirus have been out so far. The BCCI and CSA( Cricket South Africa) have also advised it’s players and staff members to take care of personal hygiene and remain mindful during their interactions with fans. The players are also advised to avoid shaking hands or using third-party gadgets for selfies.