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Hours after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) announced that the training camp for archery will resume at Pune on August 25, came the news that the Pullela Gopichand Centre in Hyderabad would be shut down for a few days as shuttler Sikki Reddy and physiotherapist Kiran C had tested positive for COVID-19.

This came after the hospitalisation of six hockey players, including India captain Manpreet Singh, who tested positive upon reaching the National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru to report for their camp last week. The SAI statement said Reddy and Kiran were asymptomatic. “This came to light after they took SAI’s mandatory Covid test that is given to all players, coaches and support staff on arrival,” SAI said. “All primary contacts of Sikki and Kiran have been traced and are being given the RT-PCR test again.”

Justifying its decision to restart national camps during the pandemic, SAI, in a statement to The Indian Express, said they had come to the decision after receiving inputs from ‘medical experts and all High-Performance Directors, chief coaches and other stakeholders’. Giving further details they said: “With the dates for the 2021 Olympics declared, athletes and coaches were keen to get back to on-field practice in order to regain their form.”

As part of the procedure, the national campers have to sign a written declaration “acknowledging the risks associated with restarting practice amidst the pandemic”. Besides, SAI also says that it “cannot guarantee the complete elimination of risks posed by Covid-19 through the implementation of the precautions and protocols identified by the centre”.

Sharing the COVID-19 SOPs, the statement said the camp premises was divided in red, green and orange zones. “The green zone is used exclusively by athletes and coaches and others are not allowed in that zone to ensure minimum contact of outside people. However, within the green zone, athletes and coaches are completely free to move around,” SAI said. “The SOP, along with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, guidelines of the respective state governments, is being strictly implemented at all campuses where athletes are present.”

However, SAI said there are no guidelines provided to athletes when they are at home or while they are travelling. The badminton players, who are training at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, travel to the venue every day and are not living on-campus like the rest. “These are unprecedented times,” SAI said, “and every decision taken by SAI at its National Camps have been directed by a single-point intention of keeping everyone in the camps, especially athletes and coaches, safe.
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