MONTREAL — Combat sports such as boxing and martial arts are being allowed to resume following months of pandemic-induced shutdowns, the Quebec government announced Tuesday.
Starting Wednesday, athletes can begin training as long as their federations have reopening plans that meet government public health standards.
Junior Education Minister Isabelle Charest told reporters that participants will be limited to training bubbles of four people or fewer and will have to sign a consent form acknowledging the risks.
Athletes will also be asked to carefully follow all health advice when outside the gym in order to prevent potentially transmitting the disease within their communities, she said.
"Combat sports are still not risk-free, and we need to be conscious that when we go out we don't want to contaminate everyone," she said.
The new directive applies to all combat sports including karate, judo, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, and kickboxing.
Competitions aren't yet authorized, Charest said, adding she expects that to change in the next few days after organizers submit plans.
Combat sports are among the last sectors to reopen because they often involve close contact among participants, which increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, according to Richard Masse, a strategic advisor to the public health department.
"We control the risk, we'll limit the risk, but still you have to be careful," Masse said. "You have to be careful when you're (doing) your sport, but also outside."
He said some of the rules still need to be formalized before tournaments can resume. Masse suggested, however, that mandatory testing for athletes will not necessarily be the favoured approach.
"We've seen that with people doing soccer or hockey, we've seen players where, even with testing, they came back, worked with their teams and transmitted COVID, so we have to be very careful with that."
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 122 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday.
Health authorities said both deaths occurred between Aug. 25-30. Quebec has now reported a total of 62,617 COVID-19 cases and 5,762 deaths linked to the virus, since the pandemic began.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press