David Heslop says there is only a small chance of the virus spreading once the game returns. Picture. Phil Hillyard
David Heslop says there is only a small chance of the virus spreading once the game returns. Picture. Phil Hillyard

A one in 10,000 chance of spreading: Expert backs NRL

The NRL's biosecurity expert believes there is "less than one in 10,000 chance" of a player or official contracting coronavirus when training resumes on Monday.

Associate professor David Heslop - an expert in major disasters and infectious diseases - has been lurking in the shadows in recent weeks compiling a 50-page biosecurity document that was handed to clubs earlier this week.

A lifelong rugby league fan, Heslop has a long history in planning and management of natural disasters and analysing biosecurity risks and epidemic modelling.

He has spent the past 16 years working in the military, specialising in chemical and biological weapons.

Heslop backed the NRL's plans to not only return to training this Monday, but resume the competition on May 28.

"The risks are incredibly low right now," he said. "When I was approached to assist, I was quite comfortable with the competition resuming.

"We're getting to the point now that the risk from COVID-19 to the game is going to be more related to a sudden surge in cases, and that could be from a whole variety of possibilities and factors.

Professor David Heslop.
Professor David Heslop.

 

"The major risk to the NRL is about being responsive and agile in dealing with an unfolding change in the future situation, but the actual baseline risk of COVID-19 is quite low.

"At the time the competition stopped, if you approached me about the competition resuming in a month, I would've had a very different answer.

"I would've been quite reluctant to support a continuation of the competition at the time. That was due to the path the country was taking. which was heading towards Italy and the UK.

"Since that time, Australia has done extraordinarily well in implementing controls and convincing the public (to comply). Hats off to the public in embracing that change, which has resulted in the best outcome in the world so far."

 

 

As part of Heslop's biosecurity advice, all players and officials must receive a flu vaccine.

He has also introduced other stringent rules for anyone on a club's register, including:

 Houses being screened before being declared safe to live in;

 Ban of taxis and ride-shares;

 No car pooling with teammates;

Compulsory questionnaire to be filled in every day;

 Banning of public parks;

 Daily temperature checks.

Heslop ran through the document with club bosses on Monday afternoon. While slight amendments are being made after consulting clubs, it will become mandatory for clubs to implement it when they return next Monday.

"There will be an inconvenience and uncomfortable requirements for our players," Heslop said. "Over time, those requirements may be relaxed or more stringent.

"It's a passion of mine that rugby league recommences this season."

 

 

Originally published as A one in 10,000 chance of spreading: Expert backs NRL



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