Shuttlers break rules, halls shut

The Covid-19 patient who had played badminton at the ActiveSG Jurong East Indoor Sports Hall last Monday with a large group had joined the session for the first time this year, signing up through Meetup, a social platform that allows users to create groups and host events that others can join.

Besides sports, the activities include a wide range of interests such pets, films and music.

The organiser of the June 22 session insisted the group, which comprised 29 people including himself, had no intention of breaching the safe management rules put in place by Sport Singapore (SportSG).

The man, who declined to be named, told The Straits Times on Saturday those who had played with the male patient have been quarantined, estimating that this amounted to “more than half” the group. The rest, including himself, are under phone surveillance.

This means he is an identified contact who has a low risk of being infected, and will be under active surveillance and contacted daily by an officer from the Ministry of Health to monitor his health status.

Responding to further queries from ST last night, he acknowledged that inter-group mixing was done to a small extent “as players have their own preferred courts and players to play with” and repeated his earlier claim that he and the group did not know that joining different courts to play was against the rules.

The group has been criticised by national agency SportSG, which runs all ActiveSG sports facilities, for flouting its safe management measures at the hall. These include a cap of four players per court and a rule that players must stay within the court assigned to them. They are not allowed to switch courts, which have physical partitions.

These rules that prohibit inter-group mixing are in force for all sports and not just badminton. They were introduced on June 19, the day sports facilities were given the nod to reopen following the easing of circuit breaker measures.

But the organiser felt the rules could be “interpreted differently”, and on Saturday called for a clearer phrasing of the guidelines. He said his group had practised safe distancing by placing their belongings away from one another and by avoiding all body contact.

“Based on my interpretation of the rules as stated in the official guidelines, I thought that I had properly followed the rules,” he said.

He added he had taken greater precautions by booking 50 per cent more courts than usual – six compared to four – for the three-hour session last Monday. The June 22 game was the group’s second organised session in phase two.

A LITTLE MIXING

However, inter-group mixing was done to a small extent as players have their own preferred courts and players to play with.

THE ORGANISER OF THE BADMINTON GROUP, explaining that the players were of different standards and ages.

“I reduced the number of players that could play and booked more courts to accommodate fewer players, as I understood clearly that there can be no more than five in a group for a court and a maximum of four players in a court while the other will have to wait outside the court for his/her turn.

“I have thus allowed only 29 players to play in six courts (30 was what I thought was the maximum).”

He pointed out when an ActiveSG staff member, who was observing the group, informed the players to warm up and rest outside the hall unless they were playing on the court, the organiser “heard them and quickly took action”.

He also queried “why none of the ActiveSG staff alerted myself or my players even though they were present for a good 10-15 minutes to observe the inter-mingling”.

SportSG’s deputy director of public relations S. Parameswaran yesterday reiterated groups were barred from inter-mingling and the specific house rules of a four-player cap for each badminton court.

The incident prompted the closure of all ActiveSG sports halls yesterday, with SportSG saying the “time-out” would allow users to “take this time to reflect on the importance of exercising individual responsibility for the collective good” and ensure they “understand the rules and spirit of the safe management measures”.

The Jurong East Indoor Sports Hall was closed on Saturday for cleaning and disinfection as well.

SportSG will implement new measures when the halls reopen today. This includes issuing coloured wrist bands to badminton players to remind them to remain in their allocated courts and to assist safe distancing ambassadors to identify the different groups for each court.

SportSG will also scrutinise badminton social groups that plan to congregate in a large group at any venue. Individuals involved with such groups, as well as those who play and mix across different courts, will have their bookings cancelled and/or be ejected from the indoor sport hall and be barred from using ActiveSG facilities.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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