BULLETIN FROM THE BOARD
This bulletin supersedes our first Covid-19 bulletin of 29th February 2020.
This bulletin is based on law, regulations and advice prevailing at the time of writing. These may change, so please stay alert. Pandemic alert is currently at level 4 (highest).
The aim of this bulletin is to provide not just advice, but a broad understanding of Covid-19 in areas relevant to disc golf, especially the legal/regulatory/advisory framework under which we now live.
The Main Risk: Current New Zealand government restrictions in relation to Covid-19 have been made with regard to one main risk, which is the perception that unchecked spread of the virus (i.e. with no counter-measures taken) will lead to the hospital system being overwhelmed (especially ICU beds), with correspondingly high levels of mortality. The elderly, and those with certain underlying medical conditions, are believed to be at much higher risk (which is why they have been asked to “strictly” self-isolate).
How Covid-19 Spreads: The virus is contagious, and the methods by which it is spread are known:
- By droplets of 5 microns or larger through coughing, sneezing or spitting (e.g. while talking) onto someone else (especially via their eyes, nose or mouth).
- By touch, whether direct (e.g. handshake) or indirect (2 people touching a common surface, e.g. a doorknob).
- By aerosol (defined as droplets smaller than 5 microns) in an enclosed indoor setting where people sing, speak or eat together. Aerosol transmission is not considered a risk in parks and the great outdoors.
Preventing Spread of the Virus: Methods for preventing and minimising spread are well known:
- Personal hygiene (frequent and thorough hand washing, avoiding touching your face).
- Physical protection (e.g. wearing a mask, gloves, goggles or special clothing).
- Social distancing (quarantine, isolation, 2 metre rule, no mass gatherings).
- Travel restrictions (to reduce the risk of an outbreak or cluster spreading outside a local
community, where it can more easily be closed down by contact tracing and follow-up).
Legal Framework: Powers during the current pandemic derive from longstanding NZ legislation, such as the Health Act 1956, which (section 70 onwards) confers many emergency powers on the Chief Medical Officer (Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield). The main source of official information on emergency measures is the government website covid19.govt.nz.
The powers to enforce legislation are held by the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black and Police Commissioner Mike Bush. These are the 3 most important authorities in this emergency, and is why they are frequent speakers at daily government media conferences.
When asked in interview whether he was the arbiter on Covid-19 matters, Mike Bush said that the covid19.govt.nz website was the best source of guidance for all New Zealanders.
Radio New Zealand (rnz.co.nz) is a good source of official information on Covid-19, including
recordings of Government media conferences.
Right to Exercise: The covid19.govt.nz website says:
- You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health.
- If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with.
- Keep a 2-metre distance.
- However, if you are unwell, do not go outside.
I would add that exercise is also good for physical health and the immune system.
Advice on Exercise and Travel to a Place of Exercise: There has been significant clarification over the past week or so, especially from the above 3 officials.
- Ashley Bloomfield, while encouraging local outdoor exercise, has said that people may want to bike over a considerable distance for exercise. Also, that bikers on a trail should pass each other normally (the risk of transmitting the disease during such a brief transit are not significant, whereas the risk of falling off your bike while leaving the trail is).
- Sarah Stuart-Black has encouraged us to take outdoor exercise locally.
- Mike Bush has said that it is OK to drive to a local park for exercise. But do not cross town
(context: Auckland). Do not go 5 or 6 miles (context: too many people congregating on Oriental Parade, Wellington, after the sun came out).
It is not surprising that officials are not more precise in these areas, as everyone’s circumstances differ, and they are rightly seeking to introduce the restrictions with our consent. Please apply good sense and do not abuse the spirit of their advice.
Specific Advice for Disc Golfers: It will be obvious from all the above, that the circumstances in which we may throw discs in public spaces are strictly limited. We ask all disc golfers in NZ to observe the following rules:
- If you go to a park or public space and find that others are gathering or congregating there, go away.
- If throwing a disc in a public space, only do so if the space is very uncrowded (otherwise take another form of exercise, or go elsewhere).
- Do not throw a disc if there is the slightest risk that someone else (e.g. a child) might pick it up.
- Do not use or touch common surfaces in public spaces (e.g. park benches).
- Do not use or touch disc golf baskets in public spaces (they are another common surface that might be touched by others).
- Play only by yourself or with others in your bubble.
- Do not touch someone else’s disc or allow them to touch yours (even within your own bubble).
- If you are with children who are too young to understand the restrictions, or who need constant supervision, do not take them to public parks (because they are likely to touch common surfaces).
- Thoroughly wash your hands in soap and water before and after playing.
- Do not touch your face when playing.
- Wear gloves when throwing or handling discs.
- Thoroughly wash or sanitise discs and gloves after playing.
- Consider wearing some form of mask whenever you have to interact with people (e.g. when out shopping). This is recommended practice in a number of countries.
Please feel free to contact me on these or any other matters.
Chairman, New Zealand Disc Golf Association Incorporated