Doctors warn over Delhi’s ‘suicidal’ half-marathon

Organizers say the “highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones” have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.(File/AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Doctors warn over Delhi’s ‘suicidal’ half-marathon

  • Organizers say the “highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones” have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
  • Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix

NEW DELHI: Top doctors have warned elite runners are taking a major health risk by competing in Sunday’s New Delhi half-marathon in the midst of a major coronavirus outbreak and soaring air pollution.
Women’s marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei from Kenya and Ethiopia’s two-time men’s winner Andamlak Belihu are among the 49 elite athletes running the 21-kilometer (13.1 mile) race, while thousands of amateurs are taking part virtually.
Organizers say the “highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones” have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
But with New Delhi recording more than 500,000 virus cases, and air quality in the world’s most polluted capital hovering between ‘unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’, health experts said the athletes should think twice.
“It will be suicidal for runners to run the race this time. We have such high levels of pollution, we have the risk of coronavirus,” Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, told AFP.
“With the presence of this twin threat if people are still running despite knowing everything, well, I have no words to express my anguish.”
“Whether you are an international elite runner or you are a small boy from a village, the damaging potential of a damaging agent remains the same,” said the doctor.
Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country’s top research body, told AFP that “in an ideal situation” the race should not be run.
“Because of high levels of air pollution, exercising outside in this weather sometimes can lead to aggravation of underlying lung problems,” he said.
“Even if you are an elite runner the air pollution would still affect your lung.”
Normally thousands of amateurs would also take part, but because of the coronavirus they have been told to run their chosen route between Wednesday and Sunday and chart their time on an app.
Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix.
This year, the Indian capital is also a major concern in the battle against the coronavirus. India is the world’s second worst-hit country behind the United States, with about 9.3 million cases.
The city is considering imposing a night-time curfew because of the rising number of cases, according to media reports.
Kosgei, who is visiting India for the first time, acknowledged her concerns about traveling for the race.
“We have definitely been affected by Covid-19. I had to convince my parents and family back home to allow me to visit Delhi for the half-marathon,” she said.
“The virus has affected most of the sporting events. But it is important for us to take care of ourselves.”
As in other countries, nearly all sport in India has been canceled.
After repeated delays, the Indian Premier League cricket went ahead in the United Arab Emirates and the Indian Super League football is being held in a bio-secure “bubble” in Goa.


Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Updated 19 January 2021

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

  • ‘People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no’
  • ‘They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements’

SYDNEY: Australian authorities said mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving for the Australian Open tennis tournament was essential to stop COVID-19, as the country recorded another day with no new locally acquired cases on Tuesday.
Some of the world’s top tennis players including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic have questioned the country’s enforced 14-day hotel quarantine, suggesting they should be allowed to complete the process in accommodation with tennis courts before the tournament which starts in Victoria state on Feb. 8.
But Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he would not make changes.
“People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no,” Andrews told reporters in a televised news conference.
“They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements.”
More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the coronavirus. Victoria recorded four new cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, but these are not counted as community transmissions.
Andrews came under substantial pressure in 2020 after putting the country’s second-most populous state into a months-long lockdown to fight a second wave of infections of the new coronavirus.
In neighboring New South Wales state, Hollywood actor Matt Damon was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine after arriving to film a “Thor” sequel in Sydney.
Damon flew in on a private jet, will stay in a rented house under security and pay for hospital-grade cleaning for his 14-day quarantine, a doctor involved in his quarantine was quoted saying in local media.
As Australia’s hard-line border controls keep daily numbers of new coronavirus cases at zero or low single digits, tourism operators have called for additional subsidies after health authorities suggested the country would not fully reopen its borders in 2021.
If the industry did not receive an extension of federal wage subsidies that are due to end in March, “we’ll be lucky to have a tourism industry in 12 or 18 months’ time,” Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the country would be unlikely to fully reopen its border soon, even though it hopes to start a vaccination program next month.
“There will be a process through 2021 of returning to some sort of normal,” Kelly told reporters.
“Unfortunately, international borders changes will be one of the last things to change, rather than the first.”