The IWRF has announced that following policy advice from the Prime Minister of Japan, the 2020 Japan Wheelchair Rugby Championships has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Scheduled alongside this was the Paralympic testing event which is now postponed until April and will take a different form to avoid athletes travelling. At its meeting last week the GB Board of Trustees took the decision that GB should not travel to Japan for its planned training camp in Kitakyushu and that it should withdraw from the testing event as a precautionary measure. I am now working with the GB coaches and staff to review our preparation for the upcoming summer games in Tokyo which the organisers have said are ‘continuing as planned’. To address the health crisis, the Japanese government has established the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters, while the Tokyo metropolitan government has set up an internal task force and all are committed to taking every possible measure to ensure the games can go ahead safely.
Since the start of the year the coronavirus outbreak has been gradually increasing and whilst the number of cases in the UK and Europe as a whole is still small, they are rising and are predicted to rise further. Quite properly, all governments and organisations are putting in place appropriate measures designed to contain the virus and to prepare should it become a more widespread epidemic. One of the important protective measures has been the issuing of advice on good practices to reduce the risk of infection. This advice is widely available on the internet and in public health announcements. I would ask that all Members pay particular attention to this advice and especially in the context of coming together for training and competition. Club officials and those organizing any events or competitions should ensure that they make a point of communicating to attendees where hand washing facilities are available and asking that all attendees use these. Organisers should also provide hand sanitisers for individuals to use. As a sport, for understandable reasons, we are usually more alert than many to infection control and so for most of us the sort of measures being promoted are part of our normal routine, but it is important that we reinforce the need to be scrupulous with our personal hygiene and practices. We are going to have to ‘wait and see’ what the final impact of the virus is going to be but in the meantime we will continue to review all of our planned activity as further advice and guidance becomes available.