ISL Medical Protocol Lays Out Testing Procedures, Limited Movement out of Bubble

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The International Swimming League Monday released medical protocols governing how it will handle the threat of COVID-19 during the 2020 ISL season, which will commence next month in Budapest. The 13-page document includes a strict choreography for foreign swimmers on arrival to the country, clear rules on social distancing and steps to take if coronavirus infiltrates the bubble.

The ISL expects 750 participants (athletes, coaches, staff, etc.) from 40 to 45 countries for its second season, to begin arriving in the second week of October. Most participants will be in the country through Nov. 23. Swimmers will be the only residents of the Thermal Margitsziget Health Spa Hotel, Grand Hotel Margitsziget and Danubius Hotel Helia, with foreign participants getting single rooms. They will have exclusive use of Duna Arena and Dagály Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool – on an exclusive “enter, train, leave” policy – for the duration of the tournament.

Masks are required everywhere but the pool and gym, and the hotel will have dedicated rooms for team meetings. The ISL medical protocol will be overseen by Semmelweis University’s hospital hygiene department

Swimmers are not restricted to the bubble, but rather “may only move freely in the Bubble and on Margaret Island, excluding enclosed public spaces and entertainment venues, with the occasional period of stay outside of the Bubble being maximum 90 (ninety) minutes.” Swimmers are subject to pre-triage checks (health questionnaire, temperature screening) upon each bubble re-entry. Swimmers will have COVID-19 tests performed every five days in the bubble.

To enter the country, foreign swimmers must present: evidence of negative tests before arriving in Hungary (two negatives no more than five days old and at least 48 hours apart); or enter Hungary with one test less than three days old and be subject to supplemental screening; or swimmers can be exempt with evidence of a COVID-19 positive test within six months or positive serological test for antibodies (i.e. evidence of a past bout with the virus and some acquired immunity).

If a participant tests positive within the bubble, medical staff will isolate them until a test returns negative and trace their contacts.

Meals and team movements are “strictly scheduled”. Sanctions are possible if rules – such as, “No mascots are allowed in the Training or Competition Venues, no team photographs may be taken, no handshakes, hugs or any other form of close contact is allowed” – are not followed.

The rules also include a provision for a mass outbreak: “Should a mass COVID-19 infection or mass quarantine occur within the community of Competitors, this may cause that the number of Teams will not be sufficient to conduct the Tournament or some elements thereof. In such cases, the Hosting Committee’s pertinent protocol shall be applied.”

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