Dr Parasram veto under-18 sports competition before September, Griffith: CMO “makes absolutely no sense”

Chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram appeared to veto the Youth Pro League (YPL) 2020 today as he drew a line under his previous position: no children’s competition until September.

“With regard to any activity that children participate in before September, and as we have said time and time again,” Dr Parasram said, “we must remember that we are in the midst of a pandemic and that things cannot be as they were before. We ask, please, that all activities related to children take place [back] until September.

Pictured: St Mary’s College defender Augustine Nkemakolam consoles St Anthony’s College captain Derron John (# 27) after their final clash with Coca Cola North Zone Intercol at Hasely Crawford Stadium on November 21, 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison / Wired868)

The CMO’s verdict contradicted an assurance from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who on June 22 suggested pre-teens and teens were in a separate category.

“Just to clarify, I contacted the Minister of National Security as there seemed to be some confusion and the youth team officials were contacting me for clarification,” Griffith said. Wired868. “And as the Prime Minister said and confirmed by the Minister of National Security, all team sports are allowed from June 22, including team sports for young people.

“The CMO was referring to situations like summer camps, but for things like the Youth Pro League permission has already been given. [to run the competition]. You also have players under the age of 18 training with senior national teams and you obviously aren’t going to ban them.

“[…] Youth teams can start training and playing with immediate effect.

Dr Parasram made it clear that this was not the case.

“This is not what I consider [a child], there is a legal definition, ”said Dr Parasram. “I asked my lawyer from the Ministry of Health to confirm and they confirmed to me that 18 and under are considered children, based on the law.

Photo: Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram prepares to face the media at a virtual press conference on May 7, 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed / GhanShyam Photography / Wired868)

Dr Parasram’s claim drew a rebuke from the Police Commissioner who claimed the CMO was contradicting Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

“It continues to be reported that the CMO declares that people under the age of 18 cannot participate in competitive tournaments,” Griffith lamented. “I want to clarify that I do not make public comments and that I lead the police on the basis of my personal point of view, but on the basis of the laws, regulations and to be informed by the relevant officials to adhere to the national policies.

“When the TT Youth Pro League and other youth tournament managers asked me if such youth tournaments could take place, I don’t communicate with the CMO for guidance, but with the relevant ministers.

“On which the GA (Faris Al-Rawi), Minister of Health and Minister of National Security (Stuart Young) clearly told me that such tournaments could take place, and I informed the officials of the tournament of young people as such.

“To hear again that the CMO says otherwise is confusing the lives of my officers as well as sports officials, parents and players, because the football goal post is literally moved every time the CMO talks about that question.”

Pictured: Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (left) poses with Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick as the St James Police Barracks grounds reopen.
(via TTPS)

Griffith maintained his earlier claim that Deyalsingh and National Security Minister Stuart Young both gave permission to resume youth competition, which was passed on to the YPL.

Griffith suggested that Dr Parasram’s take on the threat posed by Covid-19 to athletes under the age of 18 “makes absolutely no sense”.

“From a personal point of view, I agree with the line ministers’ point of view, because the logic of the CMO is that it is not a Covid threat if a 16 or 17 year old is training daily with his football team, “Griffith said,” but if they were in a tournament, then the Covid virus would lift its head and kick in. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“A club can have 25 young players currently training in a small group, but a tournament involves 11 teams playing on a pitch 100 meters by 60 meters, showing that these practices can be even more susceptible to infection than in a tournament.

“So to say that people can train but not participate in a tournament is to allude to the fact that Covid is a nifty tactical virus that does not pose a threat to minors if they train; but if they participate in a tournament, then it becomes a serious risk for a minor.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago senior national team head coach Terry Fenwick (center) guides his team through training at the St James Police Station on July 3, 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane / CA-Images / Wired868)

Likewise, if there are 17-year-olds on a senior national sports team, the CMO states that they are at risk of being affected and therefore should not be part of an adult team, but an 18-year-old player. years on the same team is not so risky and can train.

Currently Griffith’s son Gary Griffith III is one of many minors training with the Senior Men’s National Team under the guidance of current football head coach Terry Fenwick.

A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested Griffith was right. However, the CMO’s public position was meant to discourage unregulated sports activities between minors.

The government is said to have tacitly agreed with the police commissioner to “turn a blind eye” to competitions such as the YPL; and nothing in the health regulations penalizes sanctioned youth sports tournaments.

The High School Football League (SSFL), in theory, should avoid confusion as competition won’t resume until September. However, the CMO said the next school season will depend on the green light from the Department of Education, which must weigh competition guidelines issued by the Department of Health.

Photo: San Juan North Secondary flanker Christon Mitchell (right) darts between Presentation opponents (San F’do) Nigel Caraby and Dantaye Gilbert during the Intercol National Final at Ato Boldon Stadium on December 4, 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane / CA-Images / Wired868)

“[The 2020 SSFL season] It is up to our Ministry of Education to determine, in terms of extracurricular activities, ”said Dr Parasram. “So I would have had a meeting earlier this week – with the PS and the director of education – to discuss the guidelines to be followed when the school reopens in September.

“The Department of Health will send them a draft directive early next week and then they will use it to determine if there will be any extracurricular activities, which will be a decision the Department of Education will have to make.

“We will do it [also] give them directions for activities during regular school hours.

Acting High School Football League (SSFL) president Phillip Fraser, who is also YPL bigwigs director San Juan Jabloteh, said the CMO’s public sentiment was a hammer blow to club teams of young people. However, he agrees that the health of the nation’s children is the first priority.

“The Pro League [board] was waiting for wednesday to decide [the fate of the 2020 YPL season]- but based on what the CMO said, I think we can make that call now! Fraser said. “It’s a big blow for the children. Of course, we must first and foremost protect children. But they have a lot of energy right now.

Photo: Presentation (San F’do) Students react to the action during their South Intercol final clash with Naparima at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on November 25, 2019.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice / CA-Images / Wired868)

“The number of kids who are out on the savannah and now getting ready for the Pro League and going out to train, you can see the excitement. Do you know what it’s like to tell them now that next week is the last week of training until further notice? “

Fraser said the SSFL still has its own deliberations on the 2020 school competition and there isn’t much he can say about it until the different zones come together.

“What [instructions] we have given all areas is to come up with all their suggestions before deciding, depending on what we have in front of us, ”he said. “[…] First of all, these are the guidelines of the department; then the zones must propose possible contingencies when the restrictions are lifted. “

Fraser, who was elected first vice-president of the SSFL last year, succeeded William Wallace as president on Monday when the latter stepped down. Wallace, who is also president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), officially tendered his resignation to the SSFL general secretary on Thursday.

Pictured: Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (center) meets with players from the San Juan North High School ahead of the Intercol National Finals kick off at Ato Boldon Stadium on December 4, 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane / CA-Images / Wired868)

Editor’s Note: A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was right and the sanctioned youth competition could take place.

Click HERE to read the update.

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Sara R. Cicero