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SPORTS | 25-05-2021 17:05

Argentina exempts sport from pandemic restrictions as Copa América looms

Argentina's government on Tuesday announced an exemption for international sporting events from health restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, just under three weeks before hosting the Copa América.

Argentina's government on Tuesday announced an exemption for international sporting events from health restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, just under three weeks before hosting the Copa América.

The country's football association, AFA, had to suspend all tournaments from last weekend as a nine-day lockdown came into effect, drawing concern that South America's showcase competition could be disrupted.

That news came just a day after the continent's governing body CONMEBOL stripped Colombia of Copa América co-hosting rights after the country asked to have the tournament postponed until the end of the year due to its problems tackling the pandemic and social unrest.

But a note published in Argentina's Official Gazette on Tuesday said that international sporting events (including the regional Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana tournaments) would be exempted from some health restrictions.

Footballers taking part in the Copa América, for example, will not be tied to lockdown measures such as a ban on driving or taking part in training.

"Sporting authorities must guarantee established hygiene, security and transport conditions to preserve the health of the sportsmen and women as well as their working teams and people affected by the sporting event," the note stated.

Organisers will be responsible for ensuring that social distancing is applied where possible and that those taking part respect health measures when not competing or training.

Those taking part in the Copa América will also be barred from using public transport, which is reserved for health care workers.

The lockdown was announced by the government of President Alberto Fernández last week with Argentina recording a daily average of 27,000 coronavirus cases and 500 deaths.

In total, 3.5 million out of the 45 million population have contracted the disease, with 75,000 fatalities.

Sport in the country has already been affected by coronavirus infections when River Plate were forced to play a Copa Libertadores match against Colombians Independiente Santa Fe last week with midfielder Enzo Peéez in goal after the virus infected 20 players, including all four goalkeepers. Despite only having 11 fit players, the Millo still won the match 2-1.

With Colombia stripped of co-hosting rights, Argentina is widely expected to be announced as the sole host, taking on the 15 matches scheduled for Colombia. 

The tournament kicks off on June 13 in Buenos Aires, with the final – which needs a new venue – due to take place on July 10.

Fernández has already offered to host the Colombian matches.

Despite the exceptions, Argentine matches will be played in front of empty stands.

– TIMES/AFP

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