World Athletics creates outbreak prevention taskforce with input from other sports

Ethiopian Kuftu Tahir crosses the line to win the 2019 Barcelona marathon (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

World Athletics and the International Institute for Race Medicine are establishing a medical taskforce to provide guidelines for outbreak prevention in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Outbreak Prevention Taskforce will hold its first meeting this week with the aim of producing procedures for endurance events that include mass gatherings as soon as reasonably possible, World Athletics said.

The advisory taskforce group will also include representatives from the medical industry, sponsors, the media and other international federations. These will include the medical chairs or representatives of the International Cycling Union (UCI), International Ski Federation (FIS), International Triathlon Union (ITU), International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and World Rowing (FISA).

Dr Stéphane Bermon, director of the Health and Science Department at World Athletics, said: “Covid-19 has been the stimulus for the formation of this taskforce, however, many event organisers have also had to deal with Norovirus and other contagious diseases during the staging of events and this taskforce will help create guidelines to help reduce the risk of infection.”

Professor Brian McCloskey of the Centre on Global Health Security, Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), an independent expert in outbreak prevention and member of the WHO Novel Coronavirus-19 Mass Gatherings Expert Group will also join the taskforce.

The specially assembled unit will also be served by an advisory group, which will include representatives of industry, private companies, sponsors, partners, and media.

World Athletics recently postponed the bidding processes for all 2023 World Athletics Series events due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With World Athletics unable to carry out assessments of candidate cities while much of the world remains under lockdown conditions, the bidding processes for the 2023 World Athletics Cross Country Championships and the 2023 World Athletics Relays have been suspended, and will now open in November of this year.

World Athletics has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Its World Indoor Championships was among the first major events to be postponed.