Basketball leagues have been holding their breath for when they can finally resume action. They’re willing to hold it in longer.
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) isn’t that much bothered by what might be a lengthier wait to resume its suspended season after a Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) body recommended that 5-on-5 basketball only be played when a vaccine has been developed for the coronavirus and the disease (COVID-19) that it causes.
“Right now, that doesn’t affect us much because what we are aiming for is for our players to be able to hold voluntary workouts under strict health measures,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer on Friday.
The guidelines will most likely impact the UAAP and NCAA more as both varsity leagues open their seasons with the basketball tournament. Both leagues, which would have opened in the second half of this year, may be forced to alter the schedules of their respective seasons or push their opening back to next year.
But an earlier Inquirer report said the NCAA was already bracing for a 2021 opening.
The UAAP, meanwhile, said its member schools are currently more preoccupied with resuming classes.
UAAP: Classes first
“I think the reintroduction of face-to-face classes must first be settled before we can even talk about reintroducing sport,” UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag messaged the Inquirer on Friday.
The PSC’s Philippine Sports Institute Medical Scientific and Athletic Services (PSI-MSAS) released on Thursday a framework that could be used as guidelines for the resumption of sports. The framework, constructed in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, addresses how sports can be allowed to resume under varying degrees of quarantine restrictions.
Saguisag, however, acknowledged that the PSI-MSAS guidelines would be a valuable tool for the UAAP to proceed with planning for the new season.
“The UAAP has been closely monitoring developments, here and abroad, and has been preparing to go about Season 83 under the ‘new normal,’” Saguisag said. “Now, we have the [PSC/PSI-MSAS] framework as an additional tool.”
Under the framework, organized team sports like basketball and volleyball and fight contact sports will only be allowed when quarantine restrictions are lifted, a vaccine is developed for the virus and the World Health Organization and DOH declare the pandemic contained.
Those stringent requirements, particularly the development of the vaccine, chart the basketball’s return, at the earliest, toward 2021.
Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna announced on Thursday that the vaccine it is currently working on has been approved for a second round of clinical trials by the US Food and Drug Administration. Meanwhile, scientists of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and University of Oxford were both targeting a September release of their own vaccines. But health experts said the most optimistic estimate of vaccine availability would be on January 2021.
Under the guidelines recommended by PSI-MSAS, individual workouts can be held during a general community quarantine, but only with one person per court or training facility. Workouts with person-to-person interactions will only be allowed during a modified general community quarantine. And even when the restrictions are lifted, the early stages of the new normal would still require social distancing at best or, at worst, fan-less stadiums.
“Like I always say, we will always follow the government guidelines,” Marcial said. “But we will continue hoping we can continue our season.”
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