Officials with the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) say the risk is low, but they’re taking all necessary precautions to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak at this year’s event in Whitehorse.
Almost 2,000 athletes, plus coaches, organizers and spectators are expected at the games later this month. They’re coming from across the Canadian north, as well as Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia.
“Right now our biggest concern is not really the coronavirus,” said Lucy Coulthard, who’s on the board of the AWG Society.
“There’s not been a case in the Arctic at this point in time, so our risk right now is relatively low. But we just wanted to make sure, in case something happened, that we would be well-prepared.”
Coulthard says organizers have stocked up on tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes, and have protocols in place.
“We have isolation rooms in each of the residences, in case there was an illness that we could separate the person from the general group of kids,” she said.
“I think we’re in good shape.”
Coulthard says AWG organizers are working closely with Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, who has said the risk of COVID-19 in the territory is low.
Coulthard says if anybody at the games feels sick, they should notify officials and get checked out.
“We’ve dealt with flus and so on at other games, and all of those protocols have been in place and we just keep using them,” she said.
Trevor Twardochleb, chef de mission for Team Yukon at the games, says he hasn’t heard much concern from parents and he doesn’t expect any disruptions or cancelled events during the games.
“Quite honestly, I don’t see that happening,” Twardochleb said.
Still, he says it’s important to ensure kids stay safe and healthy and take normal precautions like washing their hands often.
“Even though I think the risk is low, there is a potential so we have to be prepared for that, for sure,” he said.
The 2020 Arctic Winter Games run from Mar. 15 to 21.
With files from Mike Rudyk and Claudiane Samson
Related stories from around the North:
Norway: First case of coronavirus tested in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Concern over coronavirus outbreak impacts tourism in northern Europe and Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer
United States: No Alaska dog mushers at next Arctic Winter Games without ‘true competition’, CBC News