Dr Rod Jaques, Director of Medical Services at the English Institute of Sport and BAC Board Member, has provided an update on COVID-19 and seasonal illnesses for all athletes:
Christmas and New Year: Lockdown 2 has been successful, but with families getting together over Christmas and the Government allowing three households under one roof in England, it’s almost certain that within five to 10 days of Christmas we will have another surge of COVID-19 cases. As a result of this, think very carefully about your return to training centres; some sports are delaying return until 4 January, and for at least five days after athletes have returned to their training ‘homes’.
The annual flu vaccination is now available in EIS centres for athletes – each year we see a surge of respiratory infections in December, January and February, with athletes on average losing more days’ training due to these infections than from injuries. This year particularly, if you have no contraindication, make certain that you get a flu vaccine. This does not vaccinate you against COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccination: you will have seen in the press that there are at least three vaccines currently being promoted for the British population. The main issue at the moment is scaling up production and distribution. It is likely that there may be more than one vaccine used with the public, with the Pfizer vaccine currently in use. I expect the NHS will tightly control the availability of the vaccine in the first few months of next year, so please make sure you are registered with an NHS General practitioner.
It is extremely unlikely that Olympic, Paralympic or professional sport will obtain supplies of the Pfizer vaccine before vulnerable members of the UK population have first been vaccinated. It has been made very clear to the high-performance system that, at this stage, access will only be through the NHS. Please avoid obtaining vaccines online; Interpol have reported multiple bogus vaccines available on the internet.
If you are contemplating international travel for training or competition purposes, many countries now require evidence that you have had a negative COVID-19 test a maximum of 72 hours before you travel. There are a number of providers of this service, with costings ranging between £80 and £200. The main concern for people is the turnaround time of the test, particularly if the sample has to be posted to a laboratory. My advice would be to discuss with your sport’s chief medical officer the possibility of attending a private testing centre where the results can be processed more quickly, so that you have evidence before you travel.
Wearing a mask which fits well and – if made of cloth – should be washed regularly, is proving to be a significant protection against transmitting or acquiring COVID-19. Beards and even a couple of days of stubble make the mask much less effective, so gentlemen: shave every day!