Since early 2020, COVID-19 has grown into a major worldwide pandemic. A vast majority of the world’s major sporting events have either been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympics, postponed for the first time in its history. Considering the rates of transmission and severity of the situation, The Hong Kong Government announced a series of anti-epidemic measures in February. The temporary closure of sporting facilities and prohibition of group gathering created a significant impact on the sporting industry and disrupted the regular sport and physical activities of our local citizens. The livelihood of the coaches has been hard hit by these necessary policies.
In response to the COVID-19’s local outbreak in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Tennis Association (HKTA) initiated regular communications with the government and stakeholders as part of essential preparation to combat the pandemic. A survey was conducted in March which highlighted both the needs and the difficulties being faced by HK’s tennis coaches. Based on the ongoing situation, HKTA wrote to the Home Affairs Bureau to suggest the safe reopening of LCSD and on PRL sites in April (appendix 1), so as to support local citizens in participating in low-contact sports activities. The letter was presented to The Secretary for Home Affairs Mr. Caspar Tsui Ying-wai by Mr. Kenneth Fok Kai Kong, Vice President of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.
To show solidarity with efforts to minimize the risk of reopening the tennis facilities, HKTA initiated guidelines for the continuation of playing tennis during the pandemic and recommended setting a limit on the number of users in courts, changing rooms, and other common areas. By the first week of May, LCSD leisure venues had reopened in phases, and tennis facilities were included in the first phrase of re-opening.
In the meantime, the global outbreak of COVID-19 has shown no signs of abating, Hong Kong unfortunately faced growing numbers of infections in July. LCSD venue that had previously been opened were closed again until further notice. The number of persons allowed in group gatherings in public places was further tightened to the present restrictions currently in place. Coaches have lost their source of income and are suffering from financial hardship. HKTA has been closely monitoring developments and initiated close communications and provided assistance to affected stakeholders. HKTA has also written to the Home Affairs Bureau again to address the issues and urged the government to strike a balance between safeguarding the health of the citizens and other important economic and social needs of the community (appendix 2). HKTA is actively seeking relief measures to facilitate the reopening of tennis facilities during the peak summer holiday season, which is the lifeline for coaches to survive the distressing economic impact of the pandemic.
In realizing the repercussions of the restricted social distancing measures in place since July, HKTA adapted rapidly offering free online classes for junior players from the National Training Squad and Elite Development, providing content covering physical, psychological and strategic training.
A dedicated email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org had also been set up in order to better receive comments and feedback during the epidemic. HKTA will do its very best to ensure the ongoing support and ready response to coaches and maintain close communication with all stakeholders. The very latest anti-epidemic information will be quickly disseminated through our website and other digital channels.
In the meantime, the HKTA is in regular communications with the relevant government representatives and this week has asked for further clarification of the protocols necessary to ensure the earliest reopening of tennis facilities to provide supportive, low-risk, healthy physical activities for the HK public at the earliest time it is appropriately safe to do so.
Appendix 1, please click here.
Appendix 2, please click here.