Olympics preparations: Vaccination will be part of travel requirements

22Feb 2021
Michael Eneza
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Olympics preparations: Vaccination will be part of travel requirements

WHILE African countries are still in early stages of even thinking of a countrywide vaccination strategy, efforts will have to be made to enhance such provisions as part of wider international links.

Judo players participate in a recent National Championships which took place in Zanzibar.

The first aspect has usually been how senior government officials can develop links with other countries in the absence of travel provision, and here the use of video conferencing has helped out.

There is another sphere where this is likely to be impracticable when rules are altered, that is, in competitive international sport, where our participation is so far governed by rules of prior testing.

There was a disturbing event of late where a Tanzanian club side was unceremoniously detained on arrival at the Luanda International Airport and put on military vehicles to what was described on international media as quarantine, but as that provision didn't exist at the time of departure, but was cooked up on arrival it was definitely a detention on pretext of coronavirus infection risk, fuelled by an impression across the continent that Tanzania denies reality of the pandemic. The gambit failed.

A big idea came to the Angolan soccer federation, to place in distressful condition the visiting side and then thrash them in a fitting manner when they take to the pitch three days later or sometimes at that point.

This was all too obvious in appearance and thus right-thinking authorities saw through it, but at first it appeared they were acquiescing with the situation, as all reference to the coronavirus is scaring, and thus one can push anything - or as the adage goes, get away with murder.

It nearly came off but a dilemma exists as to how far national authorities can invoke Covid-19 to move such action.

One line of solution which is increasingly being noticed in Europe and North America is what is being identified as 'vaccination passports' where it becomes compulsory for a person to show a vaccination certificate to be accorded any welcome outside.

With mass infections starting in secluded places like seafaring luxury ships, quarantine is no longer a prized idea as it merely makes it easy for inmates, if they don't sufficiently distance within closed spaces, to infect one another assuming that the risk is high enough. So one will have to be vaccinated to gain right of entry into international sports activity.

That implies the likelihood in the not so distant future that African sports federations will improve their travel conditions to include vaccination passports or visa condition, unlike at present where each country conducts its own testing procedures.

The good thing about vaccines is that they are just a few, accepted by global health authorities including the World Health Organisation (WHO), and where there is a global vaccine alliance (GAVI) whose eminent chairperson, the former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala now leads the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This link at the top executive level should make is somewhat easier to add Covid-19 vaccines on WTO table, and the UN.

That means existing national arrangements and regional protocols on Covid-19 tests will have to be further streamlined to be consonant with international demands and standards generally, where the issue isn't testing to find out whether one has the virus, but being vaccinated.

As more African countries roll out vaccination programs, such a condition may soon be adopted, not by expecting that the breadth of the continent will be vaccinated anytime soon, or in two or three years to come, but specialised vaccination facilities ought to take off for those in need of vaccination passports.

Out of this number sports people will be under intense pressure, for the video link replacement can't work.

So far this problem isn't being discussed at the sports federations level as it isn't a requirement in the regional sporting events to which we are a part.

But there is a possibility that the Olympic Games get ahead at midyear, not quite the mass Olympic Games of old even with the far reaching vaccination rollout in most of Global North as they call the rich countries.

It will be possible that delegations of vaccinated individuals arrive in the city of Tokyo and other host cities in Japan and close neighbours, whether or not the Games are held conjointly the way the two held the World Cup finals in 2002.

But since then trade spats and traditional animosities have been reignited, diminishing joint Games option.

With the intensity or depth of Covid-19 apparent infections locally rising, even domestically the usual confidence we have been exhibiting with preventive mechanisms and local first aid or quick reaction formulas to the pandemic begins to wane.

That isn't to say that these remedies aren't working but they don't instil the sort of confidence that the local public needs, that can also be accepted among regional partners and at a wider international level.

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