LEN, the governing body for aquatic sports in Europe, has established a set of “sanitary guidelines” as part of its effort to contain the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic at this week’s European Short Course Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Those policies include creating a set of separated ‘bubble corridors’ in an attempt to minimize the number of contacts between different groups, and “therefore to limit the number of people that may need to be tested” in the event of a positive COVID-19 case.
All participants are staying in double or single rooms, and must stay in their hotel during the championships. Participants are only allowed to move between the hotel and competition venue, with rare exceptions.
There are strict limits even on activity within teams. No handshakes, hugs, or team photos are allowed, there is no mascot in the venue, and athletes are expected to follow the “enter, train, leave” rule. Participants’ movements within the venue are pre-defined to limit interaction.
Meals and other activities will have distancing procedures in place, and face masks are to be worn in all facilities, except when eating, drinking, competing, or training.
COVID Marshalls will enforce these rules.
There is a maximum of 10 swimmers allowed per lane in training, a maximum of 100 people in the 25 meter pool, and the starting end for lanes are at opposite ends of the pool.
LEN is employing testing protocols that will vary depending on whether an athlete has been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.
Category A includes those individuals who have been fully vaccinated or who have fully recovered from COVID-19 and are therefore presumed to have some natural immunity. Athletes, staff, and others were subjected to one PCR test within 48 hours before arrival in Kazan.
Category B includes individuals who have not had COVID-19 and who are also not vaccinated. The level of testing will vary depending on their role: participants (namely, athletes, coaches, and persons contributing to the conduct of the event) were tested once before arrival, once before entering the hotel, and on day 5 of the event.
Other individuals in Category B, including pool staff, hotel staff, drivers, media, volunteers, and security, were subjected to a PCR test before arrival and then will undergo follow-up Antigen tests each day of the event.
Positive Test Protocols
In the event of a positive test, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, as well as LEN staff, will be notified, and the individual will be immediately moved to isolation (at their own cost). Even with a negative test, if an individual shows symptoms, this protocol will still be enacted.
Foreign participants without symptoms or with mild symptoms will be isolated in the hotel, while Russian participants will be isolated in their place of temporary residence. The period of isolation is 14 days in either case.
Close contacts will also be placed in quarantine for 14 days at their own expense. If the individual who tested positive has a roommate, the roommate is automatically considered a “close contact.”
Russian COVID Numbers
While there is significant international skepticism around the accuracy of Russia’s official COVID-19 data, official counts have over 230,000 deaths and more than 8.3 million cases in the country.
Russia is currently undergoing a spike in reported COVID-19 cases, averaging 39,231 over the last week – their highest since the pandemic began in early 2020. Average daily deaths of 1,155 over the last week is also the highest of the pandemic.
While Russia was the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a vaccine, continued vaccine hesitancy has plagued the country. Somewhere between 30 and 36% of the country has been fully vaccinated, depending on the source, which is around half the rate of the European Union where most competitors at this week’s meet are coming from.