Organizers of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games will ask athletes to salute and congratulate each other with elbow bumps, not handshakes, as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.
This year’s Games are being held in Whitehorse, Yukon, from March 15-21, against a backdrop of global concern about the outbreak of a coronavirus now known as Covid-19.
“Countries should be preparing for sustained community transmission,” World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week, as experts predicted months of disruption.
However, Arctic Winter Games organizers say no cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in any of the participating regions as of February 28.
Hundreds of athletes from northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, the Sámi people of Scandinavia, and the Yamal region of Russia gather every two years to compete in sports ranging from soccer and hockey to high kick and knuckle hop.
In a statement issued this week, officials said they would ask “that the custom of shaking hands after games, matches, and competitions, be replaced with elbow bumps.
“This is to maintain the sportspersonship aspect of competition while attempting to limit transmission of illness.”
Organizers said extra tissue and disinfectant would be provided at all venues, alongside signage about handwashing and other preventative measures.
Extra volunteers will administer hand sanitizer in all food areas. “A minimum of one emergency isolation room” will be identified at every accommodation building.
“Should there be a suspected illness reported during the Games, [the Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health] would be contacted immediately and public health protocols … would take effect,” the organizers’ statement read.
Participants and spectators are told to “stay away from events and others and report promptly if you are sick.”