Friday, March 13, 2020

Cities deserted ... Corona postpones schedules .. ..


Corona has taken the World by storm and everywhere people are talking about it -  WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 has caught the attention of whole World.  He started saying - In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

Milan, Italy. Daegu, South Korea. Qom, Iran. Many of the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks took root in and around well-travelled cities, but they have since grown to encompass entire countries. Cases have spread across Italy’s north and down to Rome, leading to a lockdown of the entire country. Iran’s capital, where leaders dismissed the virus just two weeks ago, has seen thousands infected. And cases continue to surge across Europe. The outbreaks are not all heading in the same direction. South Korea has managed to slow growth of new cases for now, through intensive testing and monitoring of infections. Italy, Iran and the United States are still reporting large numbers of new cases every day.

Official case totals are an imperfect method of judging the world’s outbreaks. Every country has more cases than it has been able to detect through lab tests. And a shortage of testing kits in some countries, like Indonesia and the United States, along with a lack of public disclosure in others, like Egypt, means official reports are probably masking large outbreaks. Corona has had its impact in Sports too.

Chadalavada Anandha Sundhararaman Bhavani Devi, (CA  Bhavani Devi) is an Indian sabre fencer.

After the early-morning announcement that spectators would not be admitted to the three matches of this series - two in Sydney and one in Hobart next Friday - there was a bizarre atmosphere across proceedings including the toss interviews being conducted by Spidercam to avoid getting too close to players, followed by the sight of international cricketers clambering into the stands to fetch the ball having walked onto the arena in near silence.  Kane Richardson tested negative for COVID-19 after he was ruled out of the first ODI against New Zealand at the SCG having reported reporting a mild sore throat to Australia's medical team yesterday. Richardson, who returned from South Africa earlier this week with the rest of the ODI squad, was isolated from the rest of the squad while the tests results were awaited which came through on Friday evening. At an empty SCG, with the impacts of coronavirus growing by the minute, David Warner and Aaron Finch produced a century opening stand before Australia lost their way against New Zealand's spinners, leaving Marnus Labuschagne to nurse them to 258 as the immediate future of sport in the country remained uncertain.

England's Test tour against Sri Lanka is currently "planned to continue" in spite of the growing threat of the the COVID-19 pandemic, but their home Test series against West Indies in June, as well as the T20 Blast, is under threat, with both events scheduled for a period that the UK government has identified as the likely peak of the virus in the country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that sporting fixtures will not be banned with immediate effect, but said that such a move is under consideration, which could wreak havoc with the English cricketing summer. England are currently in Sri Lanka playing their final four-day warm-up match ahead of the two-Test series, where the ECB are in regular contact with the Sri Lankan and British High Commissions, in addition to Sri Lanka Cricket to address a "highly evolving" situation.

Back home, the much awaited IPL 2020 has been deferred until April 15 following the global concern over the COVID-19 outbreak. The decision to postpone the tournament, which was scheduled to start on March 29, was taken by the BCCI top brass lead by its president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah and top management of the IPL in the wake of the advice given by various arms of the Indian government.The IPL sent the communication to all eight franchises on Friday, saying it would meet the owners on Saturday in person in Mumbai to further debrief on the matter. The BCCI confirmed the development through a media release stating it was "suspending" the IPL until April 15 as a "precautionary measure" against the coronavirus. "The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience," the release said. The IPL now joins a host of high-profile sporting events including the UEFA Champions League, the NBA and the ATP Tour to be affected by COVID-19.

With the outbreak rapidly escalating across the globe the Indian government has placed severe travel restrictions for people traveling in as well out of India. With the coronavirus being highly contagious and spread through contact, the government said sporting organisations would need to adhere to Health Ministry's guidelines to avoid mass gatherings. It was earlier reported the possibility of the IPL being a severely restricted tournament - with at least some part of it being played to empty stands - because of the pandemic.  There was also some talk that some foreign participants could have trouble in travelling and might get excluded in the early part of the tourney.
Fencer Bhavani Devi has a different problem – right now she is in coronavirus-hit Italy. A few days earlier, she was quoted as saying - “I don’t feel a big difference because of the virus. But as a precaution, I don’t go to crowded places. I generally only go to my training venue. I follow the hygiene instructions, clean my hands often.”  For months, the fencer has been training there under coach Nicola Zanotti, something that she has carried on doing even after the outbreak spread to the country. Italy now has the second-highest number of coronavirus-related deaths after China and the fourth-highest number of cases after China, South Korea and Iran.

But Bhavani has waited too long for her day in the sun to pack up and return home. She’s too close to her dream, months away from being the first Indian fencer ever to make the Olympics.  However, the Chennai fencer said that the city that’s she’s based in — Livorno — is relatively unaffected. “It has had only one case. Most of the cases are in the northern part. Things are quite normal there,” she told Indian Express newspaper from Greece, where she was participating in the World Cup.

Livorno may be relatively unaffected, but Bhavani is still witnessing how the fear of the virus is affecting the life of the people there. “The Italy government has announced the closure of schools till March 15,” she said. “Kids below eight cannot go for any training. In Livorno, only masks are not available. I have only visited one medical shop, though. In supermarkets, the supplies are still available. I heard that in the northern parts, supplies are a big problem.”

Bhavani still trains every day, as do her fellow fencers at Zanotti’s academy. But both she and her coach are keeping an eye on the progression of the virus and evaluating their options. “It does not distract me. I and my coach Nicola are aware of the situation. If anything prevents us from training here, we have the option of going to a different country. So far, no athlete has skipped training because of this, except for the kids. But we are training with only trainers and athletes present. No other people are allowed to stay here. And no handshakes are allowed.”

Whilst she pursues her dream for Olympics, there are talks that the Tokyo Olympics itself might get postponed too.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13.3.2020.

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