SAI centres could be used as quarantine sites in battle against virus

Written by Mihir Vasavda
| New Delhi |

Updated: March 22, 2020 8:51:49 am

The SAI has 10 regional centres across India and five stadiums in New Delhi under its control, and could provide a ‘minimum of 2,000 isolation beds’. (SAI)

The government could sequester sports stadia across the country as quarantine sites as it prepares for the worst-case scenarios following the coronavirus outbreak over the last few weeks. The government, it is learnt, has forewarned the Sports Authority of India (SAI) that the stadiums and sports hostels under them could be needed in the event of a spike in the number of positive cases, which stood at 283 on Saturday.

The Lakshmibai National College for Physical Education (LNCPE) and Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex, too, have been identified as potential quarantine sites.

The sports ministry, on Friday, conveyed to the SAI to ‘make available their facility wherever needed.’ The SAI has 10 regional centres across India and five stadiums in New Delhi under its control, and could provide a ‘minimum of 2,000 isolation beds’.

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Sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said he had spoken with SAI director-general Sandip Pradhan and it was decided to ‘indicate what all facilities we have to whoever needs it.’ The message was subsequently passed on to all regional directors, who are in charge of their respective centres.

“This is an emergency situation. Anything and everything which is required in the interest of public health will be made available,” Julaniya said. “If they need (SAI facilities) for isolation ward, we will make it available. If they need it for any other health purpose, we will make it available.”

The ministry had discontinued all ongoing camps at SAI centres and had ordered the trainees to vacate the premises. All those who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, or are likely to make the cut, have been allowed to continue training. These camps are being held at the Bangalore SAI centre and National Institute of Sport in Patiala while some are also training in Sonepat. All domestic tournaments and national selection trials, too, have been suspended till April 15.

Earlier this week, the Rohtak district administration reached out to SAI to check if the National Boxing Academy would be available in case of a health emergency. “We have informed everyone that we will not hesitate and make the centres available to whoever needs it,” Julaniya said.

In Pune, it is learnt that a shooter who has qualified for the Olympics and had been training at the Balewadi Sports Complex had to leave after the Maharashtra government decided to convert the venue’s hostel facility into a quarantine zone with 500 beds. It has been reported that the Sports Village building at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad, too, is being turned into a makeshift quarantine facility. A similar step was taken in Wuhan, the former epicentre of the virus, as well, where a sports stadium was converted into a temporary hospital.

PTI adds: Isolated inside the SAI Centre in Bengaluru, it’s business as usual for the Indian men’s and women’s hockey players as they prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in a “safe environment”.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has not affected our practice sessions. We are continuously washing our hands and our temperatures are being checked regularly. The authorities at our SAI campus are ensuring that we are training in a safe environment,” said the men’s team captain Manpreet Singh. “With the backing of SAI and our coaches, we have been training very hard for the Olympics.”

The women’s team captain Rani Rampal said her team is fortunate to continue training for the Olympics in a safe environment.

“We are very fortunate to have a facility like the SAI campus here. Everyone is working very hard so that the hockey teams can continue to practice for the Olympics,” said Rani. “Our health is being monitored everyday and we are taking all the necessary precautions.”

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