As has been the case since March last year the situation regarding Coronavirus is ever-changing. Decisions are being made on a daily basis in line with government guidance as well as medical advice.
Over the past few days, the situation has developed quickly with Professor Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, stating the country was in the "most dangerous time" of the pandemic and that the "next few weeks are going to be the worst" for the NHS.
Due to the evolving situation British Ice Skating and medical advisors made the difficult decision to postpone all elite development pathway training. This decision followed the latest medical guidance and will be reviewed in three weeks.
This development came on the same day that the GB squad was withdrawn from the ISU European Short Track Championships. This was due to the very real possibility that travel restrictions and changing border controls could have seen the squad stuck at the event for a prolonged period of time.
The rapid increase in the rate of infection seen across the UK, driven by a new variant of the disease, has led to increased pressure across the NHS. As a national governing body we must place the health and safety of our athletes and members at the forefront, so have had to take difficult decisions.
We have been working with the relevant government officials and bodies across the four nations with to try and establish elite hubs. Each home nation is responsible for guidance regarding which elite athletes are given permission to train during lockdown. In Wales, each athlete requires approval from the Welsh government.
In England the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport has given slightly more freedom to National Governing Bodies to define who could apply for an elite athlete exemption.
BIS requested permission to extend the number of skaters granted elite athlete status in Scotland, but this was rejected. Only those classed as elite during the initial lockdown in March would be given approval again. We are constantly engaging with Sport Scotland on this and other matters.
Michelle Draper, CEO of BIS, said: “A huge amount of work is going on behind the scenes to make sure the organisation keeps representing the needs and wishes of its membership and we are very sorry to have to bring you this update. Skater health and well-being is our number one priority and for as long as is required we will make difficult decisions to keep everyone safe.
We know that the love of skating across the UK is still as strong as ever. That desire to get everyone back on the ice is keeping us all going through this very difficult time.”
The official BIS online sessions will continue to offer an opportunity to stay active and engaged with skating. For more information head to www.iceskating.org.uk/online-sessions.