A local boxing official has no symptoms but is currently in self-quarantine after returning last week from the Olympic boxing qualifying event held in London, where two Turkish boxers and a team official tested positive for the coronavirus.
The official worked at the London tournament before it was finally halted at the end of day three on Monday, due to fears over infection from the COVID-19 pandemic which has accounted for over 21,000 deaths worldwide.
The majority of Trinidad and Tobago’s 60 confirmed positive cases are related to overseas travel; there has been one death.
Since his return, the official has kept himself isolated from both his children and neighbours.
“Since the first day, nobody ain’t touch me. I pick up my car at the airport and I came straight home,” he said. “I have not come out or move from by me because of the fact that I’m in quarantine.”
The referee added: “The EMO office called to make sure that I am okay. I am just following procedures and so on. I ain’t moving because I have kids and so on, so I don’t want to jeopardise their safety. Even my neighbours and so on, I don’t want to jeopardise their safety.”
The T&T official said he was not directly exposed to the Turkish contingent while in the ring and was match referee in fights involving boxers from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Spain, the Netherlands and Macedonia.
When not in the ring, he served as a judge between two and three times daily, forming part of a five-member judging panel. While, as is standard, referees wore gloves as regular protection from infections due to cuts, the official said there appeared to be no social distancing or quarantine in place and a there was open co-mingling of athletes in the stands.
“I have no signs so far and none of the other referees I have corresponded with have any. There were thirty-eight of us there and nobody has any signs,” he declared, admitting, “Everybody would still have concerns because no one expected that any of the boxers would have tested positive.”
The Trinidad and Tobago referee had travelled to London straight from Amman, Jordan where he worked at the Asian Olympic qualifiers. Those qualifiers were originally due to be held in Wuhan, China, the site of the COVID-19 outbreak. The referee said that the IOC would have made his arrangement to go to Wuhan long before.
“They cancelled that. In fact, I still have my Chinese visa,” he said. “So we went to Jordan instead.”
While in Jordan, there was one confirmed case and COVID-19 was not yet declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
“In Jordan, they were testing the boxers every day before they even got anywhere next to us,” the official added.
However, by the time they got to London, COVID-19 was becoming a serious issue and there was concern among officials. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) ultimately came in for harsh criticism for allowing the European qualifiers in London to begin while a similar qualifier, in Argentina (Americas), was cancelled due to similar concerns.
Trinidad and Tobago had a nine-member boxing team preparing to go to the Americas qualifying event, scheduled to run from March 26-April 3 in Buenos Aires before it too was cancelled.
The Olympic boxing qualifying tournament in London featured around 350 fighters from 40 countries and was suspended after three days, owing to concerns over the virus and the impact on athletes’ travel arrangements. Even while it was taking place, Franco Falcinelli, the European Boxing Confederation president, warned that the risk of a boxer contracting the virus was “very high”. The T&T official suspects that infection in London spread because of the tourism effect on the mainly young competitors from 41 countries.
“Sending (young) people to a place like London, where some of them never went before, and telling them to limit themselves is like telling Trinis to stay home,” he said. “They never saw London before. They never saw Buckingham Palace; they never saw the Tower of London. That did not work.”