Contrary to rumours being released by IRF detractors, the IRF is still actively pursuing our WRC, ERC, ECs and WCs this year along with our GTE activities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the worldwide international sporting calendar, and the IRF calendar is no exception. Our immediate concern is for events coming up in the next 8 weeks as government and health authorities react in various ways to contain or mitigate the spread of the virus with protective measures. The situation is changing daily. Nobody today can say what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, and certainly not several months into the future. The IRF will not be making irresponsible decisions to change our competition calendar based on speculation. We urge all competitors to stay in touch with their National Federation and to keep watch for updates to this post and to our published calendar.
- Balkan White Water Safety Summit in Bosnia and Herzegovina – still proceeding according to plans.
- WRC 2020 in Guilin, Ziyuan China – China (population 1.4 billion) is typically reporting less than 20 new COVID-19 cases a day (all from travelers from abroad). Chinese authorities are now more concerned about infected foreigners entering the country than community spread cases within China. Ziyuan County, site of the IRF World Rafting Championship (WRC) event, has told us they have zero infections because the virus has never entered their county, making it one of the safest rafting event locations in the world. We are considering different contingency scenarios, but the IRF WRC is unlike our other events and many other sport championships in that it is scheduled five months away. Local officials in Ziyuan report that they are moving forward at full speed to prepare for the competition as planned!
- ERC 2020 in Czech Republic – is scheduled for June, when the peak number of COVID-19 cases in Europe are expected to be past. We will be monitoring the situation carefully, in concert with event organisers and local health authorities.
- EC and WC events – will proceed as appropriate according to decisions made by local organisers and their respective government and health authorities. The immediate concern is the few EC events coming up in the next 5 weeks, which will likely coincide with the peak number of COVID-19 cases appearing in Europe. The new IRF EC event in Italy, and our traditional EC Wildalpen Austrian event were cancelled as per organiser/IRF joint decisions and government mandates. The Italian government has imposed a total lockdown on all nonessential movement, events and social contact. The Austrian government has halted all outdoor events of more than 500 people, and enacted a border closure with Italy. We extend our warmest thanks and appreciation to our Italian and Austrian friends and the many IRF teams that have been hard at work training and preparing for these events.
As always, the health and safety of the IRF family remains our first priority. The IRF will continue to follow the information and guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the United Nations agency that is leading the world on this issue. The WHO has declared a COVID-19 pandemic, not a ‘panic-demic’. Pandemics are declared to raise awareness, anytime a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations. Panic can defeat the purpose of raising awareness.
The IRF will act according to the science-based evidence gathered by WHO. We will not issue blanket proclamations or unilaterally suspend all IRF events. We support all our event organisers and teams across the globe, and will continue to respond to the pandemic with appropriate measures – without misrepresentation, over-hype, or panic. Government restrictions placed on event gatherings, which may or may not be based on WHO recommendations, will be followed in accordance to law.
WHO asks all countries to “strike a balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.” WHO advises that the vast majority of healthy individuals with a strong immune system will experience only mild symptoms if infected, and the risk of infection associated with outdoor public gathering (greater ventilation) is relatively low compared to indoor gatherings. So we encourage everyone to keep healthy, get plenty of clean, fresh air, and closely follow the WHO COVID-19 advice for the public. Rafting is outdoors, safer than the gym!!!! If you chose to step outside to go rafting, please follow WHO’s advice on social distancing and any legal restrictions put in place by government officials. Let’s remain positive while we focus on our health and safety – the world needs positivity to get us through this difficult time.
The latter half of the year is starting to fill up with events – but in the meantime, watch our website for the most up-to-date race and GTE event details across the globe. Always check with us for what is real when rumours are flying around!