GAA Football

Ulster GAA chief Brian McAvoy calms vaccine expectations

Brian McAvoy says 2021 will be as tough as 2020 for the GAA Picture: Mark Marlow.

ULSTER GAA chief Brian McAvoy has warned against hyping up expectations of sports re-opening quickly following yesterday's dramatic announcement that the British Government had become the first to give approval to a Covid19 vaccine.

The world woke to the news that the UK government had rubber-stamped the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for widespread use – a vaccine that claims to have a 95 per cent protection rate from coronavirus.

While welcoming the breakthrough development, McAvoy cautioned that 2021 will be “every bit as challenging as 2020” and doesn't anticipate seeing full houses at GAA venues for some time to come.

“It's good news and it seems to be the first of a number of vaccines that will get approval but what I will say is, just because we have an approved vaccine I'm fairly sure it doesn't mean we're going to return to normality any time soon,” said McAvoy.

“Will we have 80,000 people at the 2021 All-Irelands? No. You have to be realistic.”

The British government will prioritise frontline workers and vulnerable members of society – but they will need to embark on a public health campaign to get high up-take of the vaccine, while the Irish Government hasn't yet given approval to any vaccination.

McAvoy said the GAA and sport in general still faced a rocky road ahead over the coming months before the roll-out of the hailed vaccine.

“At the minute, the South is sitting at Level Three; they've just come out of six weeks of Level Five,” the Ulster Council secretary noted.

“There is no club activity allowed under Level Three. Now, we don't know where we're going to go. But we might be working on the basis there won't be circulation of a vaccine for some considerable time.

"In January Level Three will be assessed by the Irish Government. Does anyone expect it to come down?

“If anything, it is going to go up. You could be looking at February before you're back at Level Three again and you're probably looking at March before you have any prospect of reaching Level Two.

“I'm not a scientist but I'm just trying to put some perspective on things. Any prospect of returning to 2019 normality, we're a long way off that and I feel 2021 will be every bit as challenging for the GAA as 2020 has been.”

Meanwhile, the Down native hoped there could be some relaxation of the current restrictions for underage sports after mid-December and accepted the emphatic clinical assessment of England Chief Medical Adviser Patrick Vallance who said recently transmission rates among children outdoors were negligible.

“It has been a really tough time for children and the elderly,” McAvoy acknowledged.

“We are where we are, but we'll see where we are in mid-December [when the north's restrictions are reviewed] and maybe we can look forward to some relaxation of the rules.

“We've seen on both sides of the border where they've tried to keep schools open. There has almost been – I wouldn't say trade-off – but the feeling is if you start to open up everything the risk does increase. It's a tricky one.

“[But] The evidence is very, very strong. We have had Patrick Vallance – the Chief Scientific Adviser of England – coming out and saying the risk of Covid spread outdoors, particularly among children, is negligible.

“The biggest clusters come from indoors and households, so you are much safer outdoors than you are indoors. That's the reality. The facts are indisputable.

“But things aren't always that simple and I suppose governments have hard decisions to make and some sacrifices have to be made. It would be nice, particularly at underage level, if we had groups of 15 or less training, and I'm conscious of the restrictions we have here in the north at the minute.”

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