Unless you had recently travelled to Mars, you are likely to know that the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket tournament was conducted in a series of bio-secure bubbles. Players and officials were housed in a bio-secure bubble at the Hilton Trinidad hotel and the games were played in the bio-secure bubbles of the Queen’s Park Oval and the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, devoid of supporters. There was a third bubble that, for good reasons, was not widely publicised.
Now that the tournament has come and gone and the winners (the Trinbago Knight Riders) have emerged, it is safe to talk about the bio-secure training bubble on the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI). Training before a competition is absolutely essential but so too is training during the competition, at which stage advancing teams get to recalibrate their strategies on the basis of which teams they would be up against in the rest of the competition and to adjust any suspect techniques.
The location and self-contained configuration of UWI’s Sir Frank Worrell Field make it a perfect candidate for a bio-secure arrangement. Because it has its own dedicated entrance, players and their management teams could enter and exit without any contact with the main campus.
This also makes it easy to keep out unauthorised internal and external parties. CPL was enthusiastic about the idea and the St Augustine Campus Principal, Professor Brian Copeland, needed no convincing. For the campus, this was just another level of collaboration with the Government in the management of COVID-19, having already offered Canada Hall, Freedom Hall and the Debe Campus as quarantine/step-down centres.
The conversion of Sir Frank Worrell Field could not have been done without the collaboration of many arms of the campus and the nation. Campus security, the campus Occupational Health, Safety and the Environment (OSHE) Unit and Marketing and Communication formed the first line of collaborators.
OSH was on hand to verify that the process took the safety of staff into consideration; campus security worked with the Ministry of National Security to ensure that they had appropriate access to the campus; and Marketing and Communication was, wait for it, invited to keep the good news out of the press! There was the fear that if word got out that the teams were training on campus, some fans might be tempted to come on campus for a glimpse of their favourite players in the flesh and, by so doing, compromise the bubble.
The next group of collaborators comprised personnel from the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Health. Captain Anthony Blake, with officers from the Fire-Service, coordinated the assessment of the venue and determined the quantum of security coverage that would be needed. Dr Osafo Fraser led the Ministry of Health team to advise on the set-up and management of the hot and cold infectious zones, as well as the doffing tent for the cleaner and the grounds crew.
The Ministry of Health provided us with a six-page guide document detailing step-by-step procedures for all those who were going to be involved in the running of the bubble. Before the start date, the ministry also sent nurse Keisha Prevatt-Gomez to train the relevant staff on the proper way to don, take off, and dispose of PPEs and the protocol for managing the doffing tent and the disposal of biomedical waste.
The real heroes of the contribution of the St Augustine Academy of Sport to the success of CPL 2020 are the cleaner (Ms Janet Cox) and the grounds crew under the leadership of Mr Ramnath Persad. It was a month-long pressure-cooker operation. In addition to making sure the pavilion was appropriately cleaned and the grounds prepared to the specifications of the teams, this group of workers had to put up with a leadership that constantly harangued them about the need to observe COVID-19 protocols, both at work and away from work, because of the potential implications of their actions on themselves, the other staff at the academy, the CPL teams and their management staff and the families of all the groups involved in CPL 2020.
On a lighter note, while we did not have to contend with gate-crashing fans, we had to deal with how to keep some members of staff as far away from the hot zone as possible. Many watched from the safety of the southern entrance into the Sport and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) building. But even there, one or two watchers narrowly escaped being hit by errant balls that sailed beyond the boundary of the hot zone. We are reliably informed that one or two COVID-19 free balls are lodged on the roof of SPEC. Someday in the future, a worker would find those balls and wonder how on earth they got there. If he is a cricket lover, he might remember that CPL 2020 had some hard-hitters and that Sir Frank Worrell Field was their bio-secure practice bubble.
Emeritus Professor Funso Aiyejina is Head, St Augustine Academy of Sport and can be reached at Funso.Aiyejina@sta.uwi.edu