SEA Games-bound Philippine delegation fully vaccinated
MANILA, Philippines–Some high-paying elite athletes are reluctant to receive a jab and inoculate themselves against COVID-19.
Good thing Team Philippines will not encounter such antagonism when Filipino athletes gear up for the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
“All of our athletes have been fully vaccinated and I believe they even took booster shots as well,’’ assured Commissioner Ramon Fernandez of the Philippine Sports Commission.
The country’s chef de mission affirmed that the 987-strong Philippine delegation of 646 athletes, 296 team officials and 45 national Olympic committee delegates are protected against the virus once they descend to Hanoi, Vietnam where the present cases of infection hover around 50,000 each day.
Those numbers, however, came from as high as 200,000 cases per day in the middle of March.
“We just have to be really careful and follow the protocols that are in place. I hope the number of cases will further diminish by the time Games begin,’’ said Fernandez.
Despite the skyrocketing COVID cases, Vietnam will adopt a unique set of health and safety protocols, including the athletes’ non-presentation of vaccination certificates as well as allowing athletes and coaches to enter restaurants, shopping malls and parks in their respective area clusters.
Fernandez expressed optimism that Team Philippines would perform at a high level in 39 sports where Filipinos athletes are entered, considering the timetable that they were able to train.
After the Omicron surge spiraled downward at the end of January, participating national sports associations in the SEA Games on May 12-23 have begun training their national athletes full blast as restrictions loosened up.
“All our athletes are ready. They are in the thick of preparations and I’m sure we will witness a good level of competition in Vietnam,’’ said Fernandez, the moving force behind the Ramon S. Fernandez Sports and Youth Development Foundation and Atletang Pilipino.
“I’m confident they will be able to perform pretty well there, they have prepared for quite some time already,’’ added Fernandez.
For now, spectators are prohibited in the venues of the Games, but organizers could eventually open the gates once cases subside at a manageable level.
“We’re informed that organizers could allow spectators depending on the number of cases by then,’’ said Fernandez.
The Philippines captured the overall title in the 2019 edition of the Games it hosted on the strength of 149 gold medals, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes, and yet a large chunk of these medalists won’t be around in Vietnam.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that those who will play in Hanoi will retain their gold medals while those silver and bronze performers will improve their outputs,’’ said Fernandez.
“We’re not the only ones affected (by the pandemic), other countries have to deal with it, too,’’ added Fernandez.
Athletes from football, kickboxing, diving, chess, handball, pencak silat, rowing and kurash are expected to settle in Hanoi prior to the opening ceremony with the biggest wave of Filipino delegates arriving on May 10.
Inquirer’s special coverage of the Hanoi SEA Games 2021.
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