The Covid Protection Framework (CPF) is a system that allows for a degree of normality, i.e. we are not going into lockdown to stamp out Covid but we will have additional or enhanced interventions. As we are in the middle of exponential growth in cases with the current Omicron outbreak, the question is – how can we offer orienteering events locally, nationally, and within schools?
ONZ’s National Council has reviewed the advice given to clubs on the 17 February 2022 in order to continue reflecting the latest situation with regards to COVID-19 and re-evaluate the risk assessment for events under the red level. Two key decisions have been made:
- Major Events should be able to function at all levels of the CPF if they can be done safely.
- Clubs should be able to run events at all levels of the CPF if they can be done safely.
Good Health and Safety (H & S) policies and practices are a key element of running orienteering events and are also an expectation of the majority of landowners whose land we run our events on. ONZ provides H & S templates that clubs can use as well as specific advice for operating under the CPF. As clubs run events not ONZ, clubs can decide if an event should be run. To support clubs making these decisions, ONZ is preparing a list of key considerations to be taken into account.
The government’s response to the Omicron outbreak at midnight on Thursday was to move to stage three to ensure priority access to the health system for those most vulnerable.
Things to consider
Clubs are groups of volunteers facilitating events alongside land owners in accordance with government and ONZ advice. At red level, events adhere to group limits of 25 for unvaccinated people or for a limit of 100 if all are vaccinated. ONZ has stipulated that Major Events (national and regional events) have a vaccination requirement.
Providing a large event, such as the recent ‘Not the’ Oceania Champs, under the red level with a limit of 100 participants now requires additional planning and considerable management of some processes. Clubs will be implementing procedures so that groups remain at 100 or less and do not overlap from when they arrive to when they leave. This has ramifications across all areas but especially for: entries; event centre capacity and toilet provision. Each venue and landowner will have different challenges to manage in order to provide space and distancing. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for events, and so therefore some may be able to go ahead with new measures in place, and others may be cancelled.
ONZ will continue to work in partnership with clubs wishing to proceed with major events. It may take the form of underwriting the event financially or helping with their risk assessment process, and what current interventions should be changed. Clubs will ultimately weigh up their perception of participants’ appetite to attend events and their own ability to work within the current Covid Guidelines.
What does this mean for the average orienteer?
Isolation is required for those who either have Covid-19, or are in a house with an active case, so people should continue to stay away from orienteering events if they are feeling unwell or displaying symptoms. If you are fit and well and would like events to continue, show that you have interest in events by offering to help facilitate some part of the event.
How is Covid-19 affecting our clubs?
As a sport, national club membership has continued to grow throughout the last two years of Covid with slight increases in both 2020 and 2021.
The number of events offered by clubs in the first year of Covid (2020) decreased 13% from the previous year. Over the same period, individual event participation numbers dropped a huge 32%
In 2021 (our second year of Covid) events run across New Zealand are at pre-Covid levels. We are still seeing participation numbers at approximately 30% down on what we would expect in a non-covid year.
Changes in the pipeline for schools
Recently the Government announced that there would be an easing of restrictions for school sport. Although this has not been into law yet, Sport NZ has announced that this will happen no later than 15th March. In practical terms it will mean the following:
- No vaccine mandate for students representing their school in intra-school and inter-school sport as well as school teams competing in club competitions.
- Organisers and venue operators will not be able to stipulate vaccine requirements for students officially representing their school in the above competitions. This includes both private and council facilities, parks…
- This policy will cover primary, intermediate and secondary levels.
- Vaccine mandates will still apply to officials, managers, coaches.
- CPF numbers at each level (green, orange, red) must still be adhered to.
- Students will all be treated as vaccinated with respect to CPF numbers and their attendance will not trigger an event being treated as unvaccinated which would result in lower participant numbers.
We will advise orienteers of additional information when it becomes available.