The National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala, where most of the country’s elite athletes train, has been put under high alert after an employee at a PSU bank branch within the campus tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
It is learnt that a top official has notified the athletes and coaches through WhatsApp and asked them to inform the NIS office if they’ve visited the bank recently.
“Please avoid going to any office premises, bank or post office. Kindly contact me in case of any emergency of visiting these places. All coaches are requested not to enter the red zone for any case. Remain in the green zone,” the message read.
The State Bank of India branch is adjacent to the museum which is about 300m from the athletics hostel. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has released a statement saying that “the incident does not affect the camps” as the bank was in the “red zone” which is out of bounds for athletes since the virus outbreak.
The NIS campus – which is the main training centre for athletics, weightlifting and boxing in the country – has been virtually a fortress for the last four months under strict guidelines spelled out by SAI. The campus has been divided into three zones: green, yellow, and red. An India international said that all athletes have been given “green zone” batches and their movement is restricted to the grounds, rooms, and mess facilities.
“One employee of the State Bank of India branch housed inside NSNIS Patiala has tested COVID-19 positive. The entire campus is colour-coded and the bank is in the red zone, whereas athletes live and train in the green zone. No person from the red zone has access to the green zone and therefore there has been no contact between the bank employee and the athletes. The bank has been shut down as per protocol. This incident does not affect the camps,” SAI’s official statement read.
Patiala is one of the worst-affected cities in Punjab with 141 new cases and two deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The NIS case comes just a week after six members of the senior men’s hockey squad tested positive and a day after a cyclist’s samples returned positive on arrival for a camp in Delhi.
Although the virus has almost reached the doorsteps of campers, most seem unperturbed. “We are following the guidelines strictly. We have to sign a register before entering and leaving the ground. The path towards the back is marked as a yellow zone and we are not allowed to even step on that side of the path. It is almost like a jail here (laughs). We don’t want to get infected but there’s no point living in fear,” an athlete said.
Another athlete is praying fervently for a vaccine to arrive not only for competitions to resume, but also to allow him to visit the McDonald’s joint near the camp. “When we order something online, the guards sanitise and keep it in the store for 24 hours at least. So, ordering a cheat meal is out of the question.”