Grassroots cricket remains under lockdown due to Borisj Johnson describing a ball as a ‘natural vector of disease’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described a cricket ball as a ‘natural vector of disease’ as he confirmed the sport remains banned outside the elite level.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 6:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 6:25 pm
A recreational cricketer about to handle a ‘natural vector of disease’ according to Boris Johnson

But Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan hit back on social media, describing Johnson’s words as ‘a load of utter b*******’

England are due to play their first Test since the sporting shutdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic when they face West Indies at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl on July 8.

The tourists began a three-day intra-squad warm-up match at Emirates Old Trafford yesterday.

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Indoor swimming pools remain closed for the time being

But it remains unclear when the sport may be allowed to restart at grassroots level, with the PM saying yesterday ‘we're still working on ways to make cricket more Covid-secure, but we can't change the guidance yet.’

Tory chair of the science and technology committee Greg Clark was asked about the return of cricket, saying: ‘Can he now specify from his statement whether the ban on cricket has come to an end. Cricket is perhaps our most socially distanced team sport. We've lost half the summer, but there is another half left to be enjoyed by players and spectators alike.’

Johnson said: ‘The problem with cricket as everybody understands, that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially, at any rate and we've been round it many times with our scientific friends.

‘At the moment we're still working on ways to make cricket more Covid-secure, but we can't change the guidance yet.’

With recreational gyms remaining closed, the only people in the country who can use equipment indoors are elite sportsmen and women such as Alex Waller of Northampton Saints RFC. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images.

Vaughan tweeted to his 1.5m followers: ‘Hand sanitiser in every players pocket ... Use every time you touch the ball ... SIMPLE ... Recreational Cricket should just play from July 4th ... utter nonsense it’s not being allowed back.’

Replying to a question asking if he thought the ECB were doing anything to persuade the government that an adapted form of the game would work, Vaughan said: ‘I am starting to think they haven’t ... 8 a-side pairs cricket would be great ... just anything to get the recreational game going.’

As mentioned in Monday’s edition of The News, Vaughan last week tweeted Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden asking when recreational cricket would return.

Dowden replied: ‘We’ve said early July at the earliest providing it can be done safely.’

That was music to the ears of cricket-lovers - only for their hopes of a fairly swift return being crushed yesterday.

But it wasn’t just the grassroots cricketers that were left unhappy by the announcement which saw pubs, restaurants, hotels, libraries, hairdressers and museums allowed to reopen on July 4 with a one-metre social distancing rule in place.

Indoor gyms and swimming pools must remain closed for the time being, though Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted that ‘subject to public health, our aspiration is to reopen gyms & leisure facilities in mid-July.’

Meanwhile, Sport England released a statement, in which chair Nick Bitel said: ‘The sport and physical activity sector has been working incredibly hard preparing to reopen leisure, fitness and sports centres, with painstaking measures in place to ensure venues meet public health guidelines

‘We understand that difficult choices need to be made as the country exits lockdown, and while it is disappointing for the sector that no specific date has been given for the reopening of facilities today, we will continue to work closely with government to ensure this happens as soon as possible, ideally within the coming weeks, an ambition we know is shared by government.

‘It's important that government continues to engage with the sector to get these facilities open, not just because activity levels will clearly become a vital public health intervention in the new Covid-19 era, but also because the longer they stay closed, the greater the danger to their ability to survive financially.

‘We are also continuing to work closely with team sports' National Governing Bodies to set out a detailed and phased plan for their return, ideally within the coming weeks and welcome confirmation today that outdoor gyms and playgrounds will reopen soon.’

A number of sports reacted with disappointment to the announcement, with British Gymnastics accusing the government of ‘letting the sports community down’.

A statement read: ‘British Gymnastics is extremely disappointed that indoor sports have not been given the green light to return.

‘The government says that it places great value on the benefits of physical activity, but they are massively letting the sports community down.

‘Our 1500 member clubs and the 400,000 children involved in these facilities are desperate to resume gymnastics sessions with their friends and they are not being allowed to get back to sport.

‘If the Government really believe in the benefit of sport and physical activity on mental and physical health, they need to move to reopen indoor facilities now.’

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has expressed her ‘dismay and frustration‘ at the government’s failure to help millions of people return to the sport.

It was originally believed that pools across the country would be allowed to reopen from July 4.

Swim England has now launched an #OpenOurPools campaign calling for the decision to be reconsidered immediately.

Nickerson said: ‘By ignoring the swimming sector in the latest easing of lockdown, the Government has let down millions who rely on being in the water – from those who use pools for mental or physical health reasons, to our recreational swimmers and competitive club athletes.

‘Thousands of workers in the sector and facilities across the country are also still in a state of limbo and this is simply unacceptable.

‘Many will fail to understand how pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and hair salons have been given the go ahead to open on July 4 but not chlorine-filled swimming pools.

‘It appears that it is okay to sit on the couch watching professional sport, go out for a high calorie meal and then go to the pub but you can’t go for a swim, which provides a sanitised environment.’

Swim England revealed last year that aquatic activity helps to save the health and social care system more than £357 million a year.