0

COVID and ice hockey: outbreaks chill Nordic national pastime

Posted on

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) – Health authorities in Sweden and Finland are looking into a series of COVID-19 outbreaks on ice hockey teams that are believed to be one of the drivers of a sharp increase in new cases in the two hockey-loving countries.

The day after Swedish ice hockey team BIK Karlskoga defeated Vasteras in a game in late September, one of its players complained of a fever. Three days later, half of Karlskoga’s players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 along with six players on Vasteras.

“I felt the earth shake beneath my feet when we got the results back. I thought maybe three or four players were infected and that it would be enough to isolate them,” BIK Karlskoga manager Torsten Yngveson told Reuters.

The club shut down completely for two weeks, disrupting preparations just as the hockey season was kicking into full swing. All the players and staff have since recovered.

The two Nordic countries are now jointly investigating why hockey teams appear more affected by the coronavirus than other sports. Both countries enjoyed relatively calm summers in terms of cases before the resurgence last month. Sweden’s Health Agency singled out hockey as a factor.

“Sports, especially ice hockey, seem to be very affected right now,” Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist of Sweden’s public health agency, said in a news conference late last month.

Sweden, whose soft-touch strategy for containing the virus has gained global attention, registered 919 new cases on Friday, its highest daily total since June, while Finland registered 235, one of its highest daily tolls since the pandemic began.

The neighbouring countries have been at opposite ends of the pandemic spectrum, with Sweden one of Europe’s hardest-hit nations while Finland, which adopted tougher restrictions, has had fewer deaths. Yet they have the hockey-linked