Coronavirus: South Africa sports teams allowed to resume non-contact training

South Africa's Super Rugby teams, including the Stormers led by Siya Kolisi, will be allowed to resume non-contact training on June 1. Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

With South Africa moving to Level 3 of the nationwide State of Disaster lockdown on June 1, professional sports teams have been given the green light to resume non-contact training behind closed doors.

As of Monday, teams and individual athletes, including rugby and football, will be allowed to train under social distancing rules. This is a change from the original level 3 regulations, which specified individual and non-contact sports only, such as golf, tennis, and cricket. The addition of rugby and football is unexpected.

Matches, however, are not on the agenda, and will only be allowed under level 1, the final phase of the process and likely months away yet. With confirmed coronavirus cases nearing 30,000 as of Saturday, with over 600 deaths countrywide, the country's peak is expected between late July and September.

Th conditions for training are strict, with bans on things like massages, physiotherapy for non-injuries, ice baths and saunas, and the sharing of water bottles and equipment. All clothing worn by players must be laundered on site, and separate entrances and exits must be used.

Leagues and teams have 14 day to submit their plan for resumption to government, including the appointment of a COVID-19 compliance officer at each venue, and an action plan for health and safety.

Sports and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa also specified that recreational sport was not yet allowed to reopen, and that gyms and studios are to remain closed.

South Africa's restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have been some of the strictest in the world, with alcohol sales banned for close to 10 weeks to date, though set to resume on June 1. The ban on the sale of cigarettes, one of the most contentious issues in the country, will remain in place until level 1.