‘Golf courses could now reopen’ says professor of tropical medicine 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 16, 2020 08:42

One of the world’s leading tropical medicine scientists has singled out golf as a game that can be played safely provided guidance is issued and rules are followed, leading to calls that golf courses currently closed due to the lockdown should be allowed to reopen.

This comes as areas throughout the world are beginning to allow golf to be played in a first wave of easing of pandemic restrictions.

Professor Samuel McConkey, the head of the Royal College of Surgeons’ department of international health and tropical medicine in Ireland, who also sits on the scientific advisory committee of the European Vaccine Initiative and was former honorary consultant in infectious diseases at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has told the Irish Times that golf can be played at this time provided clubhouses are not used and golfers socially distance.

He added that the UK might need to follow the ‘bubble’ approach set by New Zealand and effectively close its borders until a vaccine is found, if golf clubs, sport and society in general is to return to normal.

But he stated that even if the UK doesn’t do this, games of golf can be played – even in groups of four people each from a different household – provided each golfer follows certain rules.

“Golf is played outside in the open air, and almost always two metres away from other players,” he said.

Professor Samuel McConkey. Image from Twitter

“So my opinion is that playing golf, even two or four players from different houses together, could be done relatively safely if sick people and their contacts stay away, people come dressed and do not use changing rooms, gyms or the clubhouse facilities. A guidance plan is the best way forward, not each club deciding itself.”

McConkey said other sports such as single-handed sailing and horse racing could also return “with a two-metre social distancing rule in place very soon”.

However, a return for other spectator sports that attract large crowds may take a lot longer, he added, and even when they do return, attendees may have to wear face masks and sit two metres apart from each other.

“Though there is still some risk from objects like door handles and hand rails. To minimise this transmission, one could restrict attendance to those less than 20 or [up to] 50 years of age, depending on what level of risk you are willing to take,” he added.

The best conditions, he stated, for sport to return in 2020 is to ‘imitate’ New Zealand’s strict lockdown. New Zealand closed its borders to foreigners and imposed a 14-day quarantine on returning residents.

“They are down to 10 to 15 cases per day. They have been doing really, really well. Maybe in three to four weeks’ time they can be down to zero cases from community transmission and that means the only cases they would have are from people bringing it into the country. You will always have that issue from incoming citizens in the 14-day quarantine. But they are sealed off and not spreading it around.

“I’m optimistic New Zealand will succeed. The Chinese have succeeded. Wuhan had a horrible outbreak, thousands of people got Covid-19, but they are now back going to cafes and restaurants in very normal social activity. That’s when sport can return to normal.

“Great Britain might decide they need to follow New Zealand and Australia, as they seem successful.

“Boris might flip and decide the New Zealanders were right all along. The British are independently-minded so they might not mind being in a little bubble for a couple of years, until a vaccine is found. And if we are in a small little bubble we can begin to do our sports.

“You have to have a proper bubble, not a pretend bubble. There is no contact from people outside to people inside the bubble, that’s the whole definition of what a bubble is; it has a sealed membrane around it. A bubble has a skin. What is being described is a balloon that has gone pop.

“Sport is possible to restart safely in the future with detailed planning, risk management and high levels of adherence.”

In the week leading up to the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, golf was being encouraged as a form of exercise to do by the likes of the UK’s chief scientific adviser.

There are renewed hopes that the UK can return to this. As well as McConkey’s comments, in areas all over the world golf is being allowed in a first wave of the lightening of tough lockdown restrictions.

For example in Texas and in parts of the UAE this week golf courses have reopened, allowing the game to be played provided social distancing rules are followed. This has already happened in Denmark and will happen in parts of Thailand, while in some countries such as Singapore and Kenya, golf has been permitted to some extent during the lockdown, leading to a boom in activity at various clubs.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 16, 2020 08:42
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  1. Yemmer April 17, 21:17

    Golf courses should never have been closed. Golfers always stay at least 2 meters apart.
    They should reopen sooner not later

    Reply to this comment
    • Aliseeps April 29, 20:09

      Well said. Piece of nonsense closing golf courses. Cant play golf in a wide open space but I HAVE to go to Asda/ Tesco to get food. Where am I more likely to pick up this virus ? Don’t think I have to answer.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Neil F April 17, 10:23

    Well thanks to the Swedish Health Authorities
    Who understand that golf is a safe sport and is beneficial to people in these trying times.

    Golf Courses are open and as one says, so far so good.

    From Vallentuna Golf Club

    Reply to this comment
  3. John April 17, 06:22

    What about driving to and from the course ?

    Reply to this comment
    • SickNote April 17, 13:21

      “What about driving to & from the course”
      It’s ok my car does not have the virus, so should be safe.
      As long as virus Rules are observed, there would be no problems & the mental/physical benefits would help many people.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Peter April 16, 16:17

    For every expert that says yes, there is one that says no ! The reality is, is it worth the risk and is the right thing to do ? I say no, because of my focus on people !

    Reply to this comment
  5. Tim L April 16, 10:52

    It’s a good article with lots of very valid points.
    The government let us all down by not shutting the borders what should have been two months ago – It was evident what was happening but they failed to take it seriously including the PM. They have since acted in an extremely positive manner doing their best to maintain the economic impact in both people and business but let’s not forget we are one of the worst affected countries in the world so let’s get this over the hill first then get back on the course. The NHS surely has to be the number one consideration not whacking the ball we all love to chase. Stay home people. Stay safe. Save the NHS then let’s get back golfing.

    Reply to this comment
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