Wednesday 07 April 2021
British and Irish Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland approached the States about the potential for a training camp to be held in the island through a Wooden Spoon contact.
Mr Gatland visited the island several years ago to speak at a Wooden Spoon charity event.
Contact was made with the States Chief Executive, who sought advice from the Director of Public Health about whether it would be possible to facilitate a visit safely, as it was not possible to wait for travel restrictions to be lifted given that the Lions' training camp is due to take place in June and therefore their decision on where to host it needs to be imminent. Given the scale of the Lions operation and their needs, it was also not possible for them to review facilities remotely.
Advice from the Director of Public Health was that it was possible to put measures in place for the trip to take place safely. Mr Gatland is regularly tested for COVID-19 as part of his role and a suite of measures, including daily testing to ensure daily negative results and limiting his activities to a few defined locations, were put in place to facilitate his visit to Guernsey. Given the opportunity of such a visit the Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority was briefed on the plans and he was fully supportive of them. The Policy & Resources Committee also received a verbal briefing.
Decisions on whether to grant an exemption to self-isolation requirements, whether that be on compassionate grounds, medical grounds, critical workers or where there are exceptional circumstances, are made at senior officer level. Varying self-isolation requirements on an individual basis is not uncommon, for example about 50 such instances have been approved in the last two weeks on compassionate grounds.
The Director of Public Health advised the Chief Executive of measures to mitigate any risks associated with the visit, and approved the variation in self-isolation order. These measures and restrictions were agreed and the visit occurred with no risk of infection from a Public Health perspective.
Mr Gatland was allowed to visit defined locations only, or drive around the island in his own car or in the back of a car with a mask on and open windows after having received a negative test result. Mr Gatland complied with all of the requirements and received negative COVID-19 test results each day.
The rugby club at Footes Lane was a defined and agreed location for Mr Gatland to attend following a negative test result. It was closed to the public. While room service was the primary mechanism for meals during his stay, during one meeting at the club a selection of sandwiches were served as Mr Gatland met with a small number of people in a large room, socially distanced with hand sanitiser available. This included Deputy Ferbrache, the States Chief Executive and the Director of Public Health to explain Guernsey's response to COVID-19, our current circumstances, potential Public Health measures if the Lions decided to visit and to discuss the available facilities.
A further single meal was allowed to take place in a private dining room at the hotel where Mr Gatland was staying. This was for a small number of guests, including local sport representatives and the States Chief Executive to further discuss logistics of how a potential Lions visit could work. Again, this occurred only after Mr Gatland had received a negative test result that day. As such there was no public health risk. He received a further negative test the day after this meal, indicating no risk of infection to people attending this meal.
While there is no guarantee that the British Lions will visit the island in June, facilitating the visit in this manner was considered essential to give that opportunity a chance of coming to fruition. A world class operation such as the British Lions will only commit to such a visit if their Head Coach can satisfy himself that the rugby and necessary facilities on-island are appropriate for their needs.
Everyone involved recognised that this is potentially a fantastic opportunity and would provide the island with global exposure and a significant boost at a time when all possibilities need to be explored. The British and Irish Lions would be greeted with a very warm welcome by our community if they decided to come here.