The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has further dented the already slim chances of the local top-flight returning amid surging cases of Covid-19, by giving the game a “no bio-bubble, no football” ultimatum.

Football in the country resumed after  more than a year of inactivity with the Chibuku Super Cup, a curtain-raiser for the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League which was set to commence this month, but the tournament has been stopped twice within a a space of a month, due to a resurgent wave of the novel virus.

The SRC believes positive results on routine tests done on players and officials, were due to the fact that they (the players and officials) were attending games coming from home, and not in a bio-bubble therefore the system is now a prerequisite for the game to resume.

“The first half of the Chibuku Super Cup tournament, covering the period April to mid-June 2021, 9 500 tests were done with four retaining positive results. This represented a positive infection rate of 0.042%.,” the commission said in a statement.

“The second phase of the Chibuku Super Cup tournament, which commenced mid-June, until the suspension during the week ending Friday July 2 2021, a total of 24 Covid-19 positive cases were detected from 1100 tests. This signified a positive test rate of 2.182%, over a one-and-half week period, and an absolute increase, in numbers, of 51.8 times.

“Consequently, two Chibuku Super Cup fixtures (Harare City FC v ZPC Kariba FC and Ngezi Platinum Stars FC v Triangle United FC) had to be postponed, by the organisers, as a way of mitigating the risk of spreading infections.

“The increase in the number of positive tests, outlined above, represent an increase of 600% between the first phase of the tournament, which lasted for two-and-a-half months and the second phase, which lasted for two weeks.

“Therefore, the first phase contributed 14% of the total positive cases, as compared to the second phase, which contributed 86% of the total positive infections, albeit in a two-week period.

“It is clear that protocols, designed to mitigate the lack of a bio-secure bubble for players and officials, (the costs were said to be prohibitive) were not being effectively adhered to, or monitored, by the affected individuals, and clubs, resulting in the rising rate of infections.

“This posed a significant risk of infection, from their respective communities (which were not a controlled environment) in circumstances where the rate of local transmission has significantly increased as evidenced by the numbers released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

“Players and officials were not playing from a bio-secure bubble but were commuting to, and from their homes, for training sessions and matches.

“It is clear that protocols, designed to mitigate the lack of a bio-secure bubble for players and officials, (the costs were said to be prohibitive) were not being effectively adhered to, or monitored, by the affected individuals, and clubs, resulting in the rising rate of infections.

“This posed a significant risk of infection, from their respective communities (which were not a controlled environment) in circumstances where the rate of local transmission has significantly increased as evidenced by the numbers released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

“The above statistics underscore the fact that, without placing footballers and officials, in a bio-secure bubble, the immediate return of Premier League football, in the present environment, is simply not possible. A positive player risks infecting teammates, close family members and subsequently, the community.

“The SRC encourages all stakeholders, especially national sports associations, to continue to make their respective, and proactive, representations to the SRC regarding their proposals for enhanced protocols in their respective fields for consideration towards the resumption of their sports code.”

The bio-bubble system is however out of reach for both ZIFA and most local clubs, as it is too costly.