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Contact sport for U-16 athletes banned in new COVID-19 restrictions

Youth football training and competitions will be suspended until April 11. Photo: Wally Galea

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that U-16 athletes will not be able to practice any contact sport until April 11 as the government announced new restrictions as a mitigation measure or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing a news conference in Castille, Dr Abela said that as from today contact sport for athletes from 16 years and under will be temporarily banned for the next few weeks while contact sport will only be permitted for senior athletes provided they continue to follow the medical protocol published by SportMalta.

The new COVID-19 restrictions have been introduced by the government and the Public Health after a sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in the last few days which have also impacted sport both at senior and youth level.

In fact, sources have told The Times of Malta that aside from households, children’s extra-curricular activities were one of the main causes of the increase in numbers.

This was confirmed by Dr Charmaine Gauci, the Superintendent for Health, who said: “We were noticing of having clusters of children who practice contact sport. Since, these children also attend school they were putting at risk other children with the result that their families were being ordered to observe a 15-day quarantine.

“Therefore, we felt that action was needed as we didn’t want that it would impact in a negative way the education of our children.”

The new restrictions mean that nurseries for contact sport, such as football, waterpolo and basketball among others, will be forced to stop group training until April 11.

Added to that, a number of competitions in different sport will be suspended with immediate effect.

In football, league competitions from U-16 and under organized by the Youth FA will be stopped as well as the women’s U-15 league while training sessions at the MFA Academy will also be suspended.

It also remains to be seen whether the Youth League, open for U-19 teams, could also be suspended given that several U-17 players play in these competitions.

As regards basketball, the girls’ under-16 championship as well as the U-14 league for both boys and girls will also be suspended with immediate effect.

In waterpolo, the new restrictions meet that training at youth level will also be stopped while the Development Cup, for U-13, U-15 and U-17 teams will also be suspended until April 11.

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