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US Open 2020 & IPL: What is bio bubble, how it is coming into effect?

US Open 2020 & IPL: What is bio bubble, how it is coming into effect?

Md Imtiaz

Published: 1 Sep 2020 1:26 PM GMT

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only messed up the sports calendar this year, but has also changed almost all the games as we know them. The world of sports is slowly limping back, armed with fresh guidelines, Standard Operating Procedures, and new rules and regulations.

The England-West Indies Test series last month, which the former won 2-1, marked the return of international cricket after the suspension of cricketing activities, along with other sports, in the wake of the pandemic. The matches were played in a bio-secure environment. Similar SOPs are being followed in the US Open and later in the Indian Premier League, which starts in the UAE from September 19.

For all of the obvious concessions to the coronavirus at the no-fans-allowed U.S. Open - near-empty arenas; silence pierced by the occasional clap, sneaker squeak or roaring jet; a lack of line judges - the aftereffects of one player's positive test caused the biggest stir on Day 1.

Yes, plenty of matches were played amid a pandemic at the first Grand Slam tournament in nearly seven full months. And, yes, first-round matches were lost - by 16-year-old Coco Gauff among the women, and No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman among the men. And won - by No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber among the women, and No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 5 Alexander Zverev among the men. But Monday was significant for introducing terms to the tennis lexicon such as “bubble in the bubble” and “fake bubble." That's because seven players were allowed to stay in the tournament while placed under additional restrictions on their movement and subjected to daily COVID-19 testing after coming in contact with Benoit Paire, the Frenchman dropped from the U.S. Open after testing positive for the coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The players were not identified to the AP by the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the U.S. Tennis Association did not announce the names of anyone involved. But three players from France acknowledged their involvement: Kristina Mladenovic, who is seeded 30th in women's singles; Adrian Mannarino, seeded 32nd in men's singles; and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who is entered in men's doubles. Mladenovic and Mannarino spoke about the situation after wins Monday, saying they were part of a group that played cards with Paire. Both said it was tough to focus on court.

Tournament director Stacey Allaster said the players potentially exposed to the virus because of contact with Paire now must be tested daily for COVID-19, instead of every four days. Allaster said: “Each case is determined by the facts and circumstances. We will not discuss how the two are specifically different because this is protected health information." She and other officials still have 13 more days to go as they try to navigate the challenges of staging a major international sports event amid the pandemic.

Among the noticeable changes on Monday: There are full complements of line judges only at two courts; the rest are relying on a chair umpire and electronic calls. Everyone is supposed to wear masks unless they're playing. Players have to walk to get their own towels instead of having them handed over by ball people. And, of course, no raucous roars or belittling boos.

What is a bio-bubble?

In simple terms, it is an environment which is sealed off from the outside world. The players, support staff and match officials will be limited to this specific space—say, the venue itself—thus cutting down their physical interaction with the outside world, completely, thus minimising the risk of contracting the infection.

How does it work?

The players and the coaching and support staff are tested for COVID-19 before entering the bubble. They are quarantined there, and allowed access to only the venue and their respective hotels, and are not allowed to interact with people outside the bubble, for instance, fans. They travel as an isolated unit, be it in flights or in team buses. There are different bubbles for TV broadcast groups and other staff.

In the event of a breach

The concept was first put into practice during the England-West Indies Test series in July. The seriousness and need for the people in the bio-bubble to remain in it was made evident when England bowler Jofra Archer was dropped from the second Test because he breached the bio-security protocols, stopping at his flat while travelling from one venue to another, and had to be quarantined. Even during the ongoing Test series between England and Pakistan, Mohammed Hafeez broke the bubble and interacted with a family outside the bubble, and has to self-isolate for five days now and return two negative tests, to rejoin the Pakistan limited overs team.

What does the IPL SOP say?

BCCI will be ensuring bio-secure bubbles in the UAE in four broadly categorised environments:


Training sessions



Within these, different zones will be created to separate the franchise team members, match officials, cricket operations team, ground staff, broadcast teams, hotel staff and security personnel. The individuals will remain in their allotted zones at all times.

The eight teams will, in effect, have their own bio-bubbles. They will stay in different hotels and players or support staff found to have breached the bio-security protocol will be punished under the IPL code of conduct. Players have to order food to their individual rooms in the hotel and avoid common areas. Social distancing and masks are a must even while interacting with others in their bubble.

The teams can use “empty stands” (since fans won't be allowed) as extended dressing rooms for training and matches, while team meetings can be held outdoors in order to maintain social distancing.

While families of players and support staff can join them, they would not be allowed to travel in the team bus and cannot leave the bio-bubble.

If the medical team, including physios and masseurs, need to get in physical contact with the player, they have to wear PPE.

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