As we head into the European sailing season the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has captured world-wide media headlines.
Here in the UK some early spring regattas are about to kick off and a 1,000+ sailing clubs will be starting their local racing programmes over the Easter period, most likely with little worry about Coronavirus, but taking the Goverenment recommended precautions.
Although with shelves in supermarkets stripped of many basic items, it seems that the public is taking no chances, and we may see this reflected in participation at events even without official restrictions.
For comparison, although ‘normal flu’ might not seem like a deadly illness, on average it kills around 17,000 people in England a year (source Public Health England) . . . as of 9 March just five have died of the Coronavirus in the UK.
And it is the pending Easter holiday period that could have the most effect.
Unlike Australia and New Zealand, where most of the major championships have been taking place over the past couple of months, the northern hemisphere is a pretty crowded place, and inter-country travel is normally unrestricted and easy.
Hundreds of thousands of Brits head to the sun in mainland Europe in April, with the Mediterranean coastline and offshore islands of Spain, Italy, and Greece the big attraction.
Indeed, it is not just us Brits, the whole of Europe starts to get on the move around that time.
The problem is that all these happy holiday makers will return and that is when the various government restrictions could start to take effect.
As of 9 March the FCO now advises against all but essential travel to Italy, due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) – although by Easter other countries could have been added.
Several UK airlines have stopped flights to and from Italy, including Ryanair, British Airways and Easyjet while the Italian internal movement restrictions are in place.
Since 9 March the updated UK Government rules require that . . .
On return from anywhere in Italy (which since 9 March has strict internal travel restrictions) you are now required to self-isolate, that is stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms.
The most effected in the sailing community, will be those taking part in the main International championships leading upto the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the end of July.
470 World Championships, Palma, Mallorca, 13 March.
Olympic Classes Princess Sofia Regatta, Palma, Mallorca, 27 March.
Olympic Classes Hempel World Cup Series, Genoa, Italy, 12 April.
America’s Cup – ACWS Round 1, Cagliari, Italy, 18 April.
470 European Championships, Hyeres, France, 5 May
Finn Gold Cup, Palma, Mallorca, 8 May
RS:X European Championship, Athens, Greece, 10 May
Nacra 17, 49er, 49erFX European Championships, Malcesine, Italy, 11 May.
This is a problem for the top level competitors as they want to take part in these events, either to qualify for their national team or to maintain their competitve edge before the 2020 Games.
One of the few sailing events likely to attract a large enough audience to fall foul of crowd limits are the America’s Cup – ACWS events, so further crowd restriction could jeopardise the events in Italy and England.
This morbidly captivating real-time video allows you to follow the coronavirus spread . . . Roylab Stats
Hopefully it will all turn-out to be vastly overhyped, and all the hand washing will be enough, but we do not know, and the politicians do not know.
And they are all determined not to get blamed if things do take a turn for the worse, so we will have to keep track of the various statements and restrictions and hope for the best.
As of 9 March, the UK government said the UK remained in the ‘containment’ phase of the response to coronavirus but is making extensive preparations for a move to the ‘delay phase’. The next update expected Wednesday.
The last advice from World Sailing on the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) outbreak was dated 3 March 2020.
Video heads-up Richard Gladwell