Although it is not mandatory, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) strongly recommends all athletes be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Not necessarily, concerning the vaccination. But we recommend all our athletes to be vaccinated,” FIBA Asia Executive Director Hagop Khajirian told Radyo5’s Power and Play with former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala, Saturday.
“We cannot force or oblige people to take the vaccination. It is up to them. We cannot have that as a condition but as a recommendation.”
Khajirian was asked about inoculation as FIBA is set to hold the 2021 Asia Cup Qualifiers’ third window on June 16-20 in Clark, Pampanga — the same location the PBA used for its Philippine Cup bubble last year.
The FIBA Asia Secretariat CEO guaranteed that it would still be a safe environment for all involved. They have the full belief that the health and safety protocols they have in place will help them accomplish such.
“We are going to play according to the protocols approved by FIBA and prepared in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee, and the World Health Organization officials,” he said.
“We have the protocols in place which we applied during our different games and national championships. We applied it hundred percent during our championships in different continents or the qualifications that we play.”
Khajirian also explained how stringent it would be within the bubble, which will house a total of nine teams from Groups A, B, and C.
“These protocols will be adopted and applied in the Philippines also where we use two fixed bubbles and one moving bubble,” he said.
“The first bubble is the hotel where the players stay, and the second bubble is the arena where we play and practice. And the moving bubble is the transportation the players and officials use to come from one place to another. They cannot go out so it is isolated only where all the delegations stay; have their meals moved from that bubble to the other bubble where they play,” he explained.
Also part of the protocols is, of course, the strict COVID-19 testing for all delegates — before and upon arrival. “Before arrival, we have double tests — RT-PCR tests — and upon arrival, you have your third test,” said Khajirian.
“Every other day, if there is a need, we’ll do the tests again and again so that we secure the health and we protect our players. And we try to minimize the risk as much as possible,” he furthered.
FIBA has also prepared for the worst, such as those who will return with a positive result, assured Khajirian,
“If any player or any person from the delegation tested positive, we directly isolate, and the close contact … We’ll do tests for the whole delegation and after receiving the negative results, we let the team continue playing the game,” he said.
“Or else they will be asked to be isolated and according to the local procedure in the Philippines, we follow the local procedure where they will quarantine for 10 days or 14 days, they have to go through that before leaving the country.”
FIBA Asia is in the thick of its preparations for the looming cagefest. Khajirian has nothing but gratitude to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas for all the help they have given to ensure that the meet goes on.
He thanked in particular SBP Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, President Al Panlilio, and Executive Director Sonny Barrios.
“The preparations are good,” Khajirian expressed. “The credit has to be given for the national federation and its administration, Mr. Panlilio and Mr. Barrios, who have helped us a lot.
“We faced some difficulties but with the leadership of the national federation, I have to thank Mr. Pangilinan for assisting the federation to solve problems concerning COVID-19 and the restrictions in the Philippines.”