IHF explanation of COVID-19 protocol during WCh 2023
The IHF was the first International Federation to create and apply a Medical Precaution Plan in 2021, which also served as a model for the Olympic movement and numerous other sports federations.
Preserving the health of the players being of utmost importance for the IHF, we have created a Medical Precaution Plan with the objective of protecting our players by reducing the spread of COVID-19 infections to a minimum.
By requiring all stakeholders of the World Championship to do a PCR test before arrival, we make sure that no participant is infected when arriving in the host countries. This has become even more important after the restrictions have been lifted in most countries around the world, leading to an increased risk of getting infected.
Furthermore, we have established a testing plan to be applied during the World Championship to make sure all players are healthy and able to play the matches. Handball is a dynamic and fast game with a lot of body contact and therefore requires all players to be in excellent health. Since asymptomatic carriers of the virus can also infect other players and stakeholders, the planned tests are the most effective measure to prevent the spread of the virus and keep all stakeholders safe and healthy.
The IHF tries to control as much as possible, while accepting that we have to live with the virus. We cannot dictate to the hotels that there has to be a separation between the teams and the other hotel guests, because the hotels follow the guidelines of the respective countries. However, the IHF wants to do everything in our power to prevent the spread. This includes measures such as testing, allowing us to identify and isolate infected players as quickly as possible to avoid that the entire team drops out. In this context, it needs to be pointed out that isolated players will be accommodated in a separate room but will not be confined in this room for five days.
As far as the spectators are concerned, there is enough distance and players are asked not to seek contact with the audience.
Our medical team on site will closely monitor the situation during the tournament in order to decide if the Medical Precaution Plan needs to be adapted. It is thus subject to change at any time according to the development of the situation related to COVID-19 during the tournament.
We are aware of the fact that not all stakeholders might be in favour of the proposed measures. However, the IHF received information from several countries where friendly tournaments were organised during which several cases have been reported. Furthermore, the spread of the new and highly contagious XBB.1.5 variant of the virus shows that the pandemic still needs to be taken seriously. The guidelines in the organising countries might deviate from the Medical Precaution Plan, however, it is the IHF’s responsibility to organise a safe IHF Men’s World Championship for all stakeholders and we are making every effort to do so by applying measures that proved to be effective.
We kindly ask all stakeholders of the event to cooperate and to play their part in the organisation of a safe and successful championship for the sake of our beloved sport.