GAA says single Covid-19 case does not require a club to shut

Team-mates or training partners not treated as close contacts by health authorities

The GAA has moved to emphasise that members and players, who test positive for coronavirus, do not automatically require their clubs to be shut down. Dick Clerkin, chair of Croke Park's medical, scientific and welfare committee, reassured clubs, as the number of cases involving the association rises, standing around 40 at the last count.

Also on Monday, Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello issued a message to all clubs pointing out that, 'The playing of our games has been classified as a casual contact activity'. That means that anyone playing or training with someone who had tested positive is not taken to require testing – unless they display symptoms of their own.

Dublin had to postpone a football championship match at the weekend when a Raheny player unexpectedly tested positive after undergoing a routine, work-related test.

“From a GAA point of view,” according to Clerkin, who also sits on the GAA’s Covid advisory group, “we are not stating that on the basis of a single case, a club goes into lockdown, which we do see on an ad hoc basis. There are also many clubs who don’t.

“It’s going to get more prevalent, which is a simple fact of life. To date – and this all could change – if a player or club member tested positive and went into the public health contact tracing system, the authorities weren’t deeming team-mates or training partners as close contacts so they in turn weren’t being called for contact tracing, which suggests that there hasn’t been any crossover from playing games.

“We have been taking the HSE’s lead on this and this has been stated to clubs and county boards. Now some clubs have taken the decision to close but as many haven’t.

“It’s a major decision to take, to shut down everything when everyone’s playing and training at the moment because everything is bottlenecked into this time of the year.”

The same issue also arose in Meath and on Monday county PRO Ciarán Flynn told LMFM local radio that case in Simonstown Gaels had arisen because of work, “a frontline worker so they got it in the act of doing their job. Thankfully it means they didn’t get it on a Gaelic football field or hurling field in county Meath.

“That’s something a lot of clubs around the county were concerned with – did he get it from playing football or while working? The evidence is suggesting that he got it while working, so that was a bit of solace.”

The GAA had been concerned on the return to play that clarity be given as to whether on-field contact would be deemed ‘casual’ or ‘close’. So far the HSE has treated such incidents as casual contacts, which has proved important for association in limiting the impact of cases contracted outside of club activity.

If deemed casual contacts of a positive case, players or members can continue to be involved unless they become symptomatic. If deemed a close contact, they must step aside and get tested.

“It makes a massive difference,” according to Clerkin, “because if they hadn’t basically things could have ground to a halt. At last count we have 40-odd reported cases through clubs and they would have locked down with a big knock-on effect on fixtures.

“As numbers rise in the community – and we are the community so it’s going to rear its head. The critical distinction is that there is – as yet – no evidence of a player who contracts it in a work or social context passing it on at a training session or match.”

The only element of games activity to date that has caused material concern is transport to and from matches or training.

“What makes it a bit different is if that player has car-pooled – and there may have been one case of transmission from transport – there is an elevated exposure, which is why we have given very clear guidelines not to share cars. The GAA protocols have been set out so that if you follow them, all things being equal you’ll be low-risk. But if you go outside those guidelines, that’s not guaranteed.”