Competitive sport set to resume in England, as government gives green light from Monday
Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand
Competitive sport in England can resume from Monday under strict coronavirus safety guidance, the government has announced.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has outlined the "strict conditions" for the return of domestic competitions, to be played behind closed doors without spectators.
Making the announcement at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday, the minister said: "Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments."
It comes as the UK coronavirus death toll rose to 38,376 on Saturday, with Mr Dowden announcing a further 215 reported deaths from the same point the day before.
Watch the full daily briefing here:
Alongside the easing of lockdown on competitive sport, the Culture Secretary also announced a lifting of restrictions on outdoor exercise for England.
Groups of up to six people from different households will be able to exercise together from Monday, maintaining social distancing.
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"That means that people who play team sports will be able to play together, and do things like conditioning and fitness sessions that don’t involve physical contact," Mr Dowden said.
"The British sporting recovery has begun," he added.
The first major sporting event expected to take place under the new guidelines is the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on 6 June.
Sporting bodies and competition organisers have been told that players and staff must be screened for Covid-19 symptoms before entering a venue, and social distancing must be maintained wherever possible.
Mr Dowden told the Downing Street daily briefing: "I can now make it official: football is coming back."
The Premier League and English Football League (EFL) are set to resume from 17 June, though both "subject to a successful vote from their clubs and approval by safety advisory groups".
Fans will be able to watch Premier League action on free-to-air platforms for the remainder of the season after the government called on the league to "widen access" in light of continued social distancing measures.
The Premier League has revealed there were no positive results from its latest round of Covid-19 testing. A total of 1,130 players and club personnel were tested in the fourth screening session and yielded the first all-clear.
The EFL, however, announced 10 positive tests in the Championship and seven more in League Two. League One does not currently have a testing programme in place.
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The changes come as lockdown measures across the UK begin to ease, with lifting of restrictions coming into affect in England from Monday.
A number of the Government's top scientific advisers have voiced concerns at the easing of lockdown, with one SAGE member telling ITV News lifting restrictions is "taking a bit of a risk".
Crowds flocked to beaches and beauty spots over the weekend, as the country basked in sunny weather and high temperatures.
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Quizzed on the comments made by some SAGE members, deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the committee is confident the rate of infection should not rise with "good compliance" from the public.
He added that the NHS Test and Trace system will also help keep the infection under control.
Prof Van-Tam said: "Identifying cases and tracing contacts is absolutely bread and butter and business as usual for the health protection agencies of the UK."
He added that scientific opinions "always vary to some extent".
On the same point, Mr Dowden defended the government's handling of lockdown. He said "very tentative steps" had been taken while "emphasising the need to maintain social distancing."
He added that SAGE is made up for more than 50 scientists, "all of whom will have their different perspectives".
What are the guidelines for competitive sport to resume in England?
Everybody involved in the sporting competition must travel individually, and by private transport where possible.
All those entering the competition venue will be expected to carry out a screening process for coronavirus. Anyone with known or suspected Covid-19 will not be permitted to enter and should be placed, or remain, in isolation.
Venues should introduce a one-way system for people and vehicles.
Social distancing should be maintained wherever possible - including competing athletes and support staff on the bench and field of play.
Where social distancing cannot be maintained, sports governing bodies, clubs and teams should implement a rigorous regime to monitor for symptoms.
Dressing room usage should be minimised.
And all non-essential activities, such as catering, should be limited.