Edmonton-area soccer leagues cancel post-game handshakes in light of coronavirus
EDMONTON -- Soccer leagues in Edmonton and St. Albert are nixing the traditional post-game handshake line to take a "proactive approach" against coronavirus.
Though there have been no probable or confirmed cases of respiratory illness in Alberta, both the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (EMSA) and St. Albert Soccer Association (SASA) issued the edicts out of precaution.
"For the remainder of the regular season, at the end of all EMSA games players will not shake hands, both teams will stand in front of each other and cheer/clap for the other team, and then cheer/clap for the referees," the EMSA notice says.
"Immediately after they will advance to their respective dressing rooms. This applies to all competitions and all genders and age groups."
The St. Albert notice contains similar instructions, telling players and coaches to say "good game" without shaking hands as they walk by the other team.
Both associations say anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus — fever, difficulty breathing, cough and a general unwell feeling — will be sent home immediately.
Players are also being urged to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cough and sneeze into their arms, sleeves or a tissue and not share water bottles, glasses, mouth guards or utensils.
Alberta's top doctor weighed in on the move, saying while the associations were welcome to implement the policy, it wouldn't do much.
"If the soccer association is wishing to do that, it's within their purview to do that, but that would not be anything they would need to do because of risk of novel coronavirus at this time," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
The St. Albert Soccer Association told CTV News Edmonton it has taken similar measures in the past in situations "that case similar concerns."
Novel coronavirus has killed at least 170 people in China and more than 9,500 people have been diagnosed with it worldwide, prompting the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday.
Alberta health officials say no one in the province has tested positive for the virus, but plans are in place to handle an outbreak should one occur.