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The IPC’s update on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – 06/08/2020

07 August 2020

The purpose of this biweekly update is to keep everyone within the Paralympic Movement informed of the latest developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it relates to the Paralympic Games and Para sport.

This week’s update contains the following information:

  • Creating a COVID-19 knowledge hub for a return to sport, by Judith van der Veen, Medical Manager at the IPC

  • IPC and Tokyo 2020 updates – includes the new confirmed competition schedule for Tokyo 2020

  • World Health Organisation update

This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for countries and organisations to share best practice on policies that can help bring the virus under control. With that in mind, our lead article this week is about a new web page on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) website that brings together the current knowledge from across the Paralympic Movement regards COVID-19 and how it relates to a return to sport.

Over the last month, the Medical team at the IPC has been identifying what we could do to give more guidance and support to Members on a return to sport. They have developed a web page that clarifies which aspects are important to remember around COVID-19 to reduce risk for athletes and others involved in sport. The guidance considers how these affect any return to sport and the implications for Para sport specific activities such as classification. This is the first time we have drawn together all the guidelines around COVID-19 as they apply to Para athletes and sport. It’s a resource that we hope Members will add to over the coming months.

We have the latest updates from Tokyo 2020 on the agreed competition schedule for the Games next year, and also confirmation of the venues. There are also updates on the Netflix Paralympic movie ‘Rising Phoenix’.

We want this platform to continually highlight initiatives that National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), International Federations (IFs) and athletes are doing. If you would like to let us know about your story or raise awareness of any other initiative, then please get in contact at

Creating a COVID-19 knowledge hub for a return to sport, by Judith van der Veen, Medical Manager at the IPC

In mid-February a team from the IPC sat in on its first World Health Organisation (WHO) webinar. COVID-19 was so new as a virus that it had only been given its name the previous week. It was not clear then of the huge impact it would have on the day to day lives of everyone, including those of people with disabilities. We also did not know then the impact it would have on sport and all of us in the Paralympic Movement.

Six months on and sport is resuming, albeit at different rates around the world. A return is to be welcomed because sport is important to people not only to stay fit and mentally and physically healthy, but also as a social experience of connecting. We know many Para athletes cannot wait to return to sport.

But there are caveats and we must consider many issues. What are the specific impacts on the lives of people with disabilities and what barriers do they experience to return to sport? What can sport organisations do to facilitate a return to sport for people with disabilities? With so many questions, and answers, we thought the time was right  to try and bring that information into one place.

The reason for creating a knowledge hub

One of the key things about COVID-19 is that it’s a novel virus. Novel, or new, means that we are learning about its impact all the time. And with every passing week and month, we acquire more knowledge.

There is also a desire for accurate and timely information. In recent months, the IPC has increasingly received questions from members and beyond. From NPCs around a return to sport for Para athletes, to questions around mental health during lockdown. From IFs on Para specific considerations around risk and mitigation, to requests from the IPC governed sports.

There are lots of new information being made available, but there is also uncertainty and many people are looking for guidance. However, as that guidance needs to be sport and context specific, it’s difficult to develop one document that suits everyone. No one has all the answers and we are all learning as the situation evolves.

One of the most common questions we have been asked is whether there is any information on how COVID-19 impacts Para athletes. While limited, this is an area of growing research and with more information becoming available on how the pandemic is affecting people with disabilities in general, we felt it was important to create a baseline and share what is currently available and known. Our Medical Committee has done an excellent job pulling this together.

So, we have created a web page where all existing information on COVID-19 and a return to sport can be collated and shared. You can link to it here.

This is a ‘living’ page. We encourage Members to share their materials as they are being developed with us at That way as many of us as possible have access to the latest best practice.

What’s contained within the knowledge hub?

We’ve broken COVID-19 as it relates to Para sport across several themes. Each section has additional resources and links.

COVID-19 general information

Although most people are aware of this, it’s important to keep up to date with COVID-19 as we learn more, from symptoms to how to protect oneself. There is a plain language fact sheet in six languages as well as information from the WHO.

Mental health considerations

Mental health has been an important factor in the pandemic. During lockdown extra stresses were experienced due to increased isolation with less contact to family and friends, as well as less ability to train. For elite Para athletes, this also affects their training schedule and goals. We have pulled together the most relevant WHO information on mental health.

COVID-19 and Para athletes

To look at COVID-19 issues as they relate to Para athletes, the IPC and its medical committee has started to develop bespoke documents around the pandemic. Little research is available on the specific risk to people with certain impairments. This brand-new document is of note to medical professionals working with NPCs and IFs. The current documents have been an initial step to outline the current situation and this information will be developed further as more research becomes available.

I’d like to give my special thanks to our medical committee for all their hard work and support during these times, and especially to Dr Manos Bogdos as the lead contributor to the paper on the Assessment of potential COVID-19 disease severity risk based on disability.

COVID-19 and disability

People with disabilities are particularly affected by the pandemic. The International Disability Alliance is giving key recommendations to ensure a disability inclusive response which are important to remember when developing return to sport guidelines. Some of these recommendations are:

  • Persons with disabilities must receive information about infection mitigating tips, public restriction plans, and the services offered, in a diversity of accessible formats with use of accessible technologies.

  • Additional protective measures must be taken for people with certain types of impairment.

  • Rapid awareness raising and training of personnel involved in the response are essential.

  • Support services, personal assistance, physical and communication accessibility must be ensured.

Cleaning of assistive devices

To mitigate the risk of infection it is important to regularly clean devices such as wheelchairs, prostheses and canes. We felt it might be useful for Para athletes to share some of the guidelines that are becoming available.

Return to Sport guidelines from International Federations

With sports starting up again there was a need for guidelines on how to do this safely. Guidelines and a toolkit were developed by the WHO. Using existing information, the IFs started to develop guidelines to support their national federations. To enable learning from each other, we felt it useful to share these. As the situation evolves guidelines might be updated and more might come out. We would like to use this page to learn about developments.

Return to Sport national guidelines

As the pandemic is not at the same stage around the world, and national legislation is different in each country, national guidelines need to be very context specific and will be different for each country. Furthermore, each sport has its own risk based on whether it is:

  • A team or individual sport

  • Played indoors or outdoors

  • A contact or non-contact sport

We will share more of these national guidelines once they become available, although many will be in local languages.

Tools for planning of sport events

Before starting up any sport or sport event, it is crucial to carry out a risk assessment. To support this, the WHO has developed an extensive range of tools and documents around starting up events including a specific risk assessment tool for sport events. Another tool derived from the WHO tool was developed for endurance event organisers.


Classification is one of the activities specific to Para sport. When sport events start again, classification activities will need to continue. The IPC has developed specific hygiene and infection control guidelines to support organisers of classification activities.


Despite the pandemic, it’s important that testing continues. Therefore, the IPC anti-doping testing programme has been adjusted in line with the guidance issued by the WHO and WADA.

We’ve come a long way in six months, and we thank everyone for their help and support in providing information to date. With new material being shared across the Movement, we can do all we can to safely return to sport.

IPC & Tokyo 2020 updates

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic competition schedule confirmed

On 3 August, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee confirmed the welcome news that the new Paralympic competition schedule has been agreed, following the Games’ postponement to 2021.

They have confirmed that the Games in Tokyo will have 539 events across 22 sports contested at 21 venues, the Paralympic Games will take place in the Japanese capital city from 24 August – 5 September 2021.

Of the total 300 sessions, 109 will include medal events. Overall, events have been scheduled at family-friendly times that will allow as many people as possible to experience them. The latest sessions in 18 out of the 22 sports are scheduled to finish before or at 10 pm local time. And falling mid-way through the Games on Sunday 29 August, an exciting 63 medal events will be held, the most of any day during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

This announcement follows on an announcement in July by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee that all 43 competition venues for Paralympics and Olympics, the Athletes Village, and the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre would be used for the Games in 2021.

The full schedule is available on the Tokyo 2020 website.

‘Rising Phoenix’ – Netflix set to release more assets for the ground-breaking Paralympic movie

Each week Netflix are releasing new details of Rising Phoenix, the ground-breaking movie about the Paralympic Movement which will premiere in over 190 countries worldwide on Netflix on Wednesday, 26 August.

Last week, they released some of the key artwork that is being used to promote the film – if you’ve not seen this, view it here on our Instagram page.

Netflix will shortly make available the trailer for the movie. We will pass this onto you as soon as we can. We would love for you to share this trailer with your business and personal connections. It is an amazing advert for the power of Paralympic sport.

The film release was planned to coincide with Tokyo 2020 this summer but will now form an important part of the celebrations leading up to the Paralympic Games next year. 

Featuring Paralympians from across the world, Rising Phoenix tells the extraordinary story of the Paralympic Games. From the rubble of World War II to the third biggest sporting event on the planet, along the way sparking a global movement which continues to change the way the world thinks about disability, diversity and human potential.   

Athletes featured in the film include Bebe Vio (Italy), Ellie Cole (Australia), Jean-Baptiste Alaize (France), Matt Stutzman (USA), Jonnie Peacock (UK), Cui Zhe (China), Ryley Batt (Australia), Ntando Mahlangu (South Africa) and Tatyana McFadden (USA).   

Tokyo 2020 Qualification

The qualification regulations for all 22 sports can be found here.

Para sport event postponements and cancellations

The list of cancelled Para sport events remains on the IPC website and is being regularly updated. You can find details here

World Health Organisation update

According to WHO’s latest Daily Situation Dashboard on 6 August 2020 12:00 CEST, the number of confirmed worldwide cases has risen to nearly 18.6 million, with 700,000 deaths confirmed. John Hopkins University of Medicine is reporting that nearly 11.4 million people have recovered.

Cases of the disease are continuing to surge in many countries, while others which had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks are now seeing infections rise. The WHO says Latin America is the epicentre of the pandemic. Brazil has the second highest number of cases in the world and has recorded nearly 100,000 deaths, while Mexico, the second-most affected country in the region. India now has world's highest daily cases and deaths, while several countries across Europe have reported a recent rise in cases.

Last week, to mark six months since WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alarm under international law, WHO published an interactive timeline showcasing how they have taken action on information, science, leadership, advice, response and resourcing. This is a useful resource for anyone wanting the key information about WHO’s response in one place.

The IPC continues to use the WHO and their site as its main source of information regarding the COVID-19. It provides regular situation reports and have a wide range of guidance on health and protection, travel advice, as well as extensive myth-busting and technical guidance sections.

Their 'Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19' guidance can be accessed on the link here.

WHO’s WhatsApp messaging service 

WHO’s WhatsApp messaging service is providing the latest news and information on coronavirus in seven languages: Arabic, English, French, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. 


Send "مرحبا"  to +41 22 501 70 23 on WhatsAppمرحبا


Send "hi" to +41 79 893 18 92 on WhatsApp


Send "salut" to +41 22 501 72 98 on WhatsApp


Send "नमस्ते" to +41 22 501 73 41 on WhatsAppनमस्ते


Send "ciao" to +41 22 501 78 34 on WhatsApp


Send "hola" to +41 22 501 76 90 on WhatsApp


Send "oi" to +41 22 501 77 35 on WhatsApp

Latest IPC media statements

Potential impact of COVID-19 on Para Athletes (drafted 18 March, reviewed 30 April)

At the IPC the health and well-being of Para athletes is our top priority and we are working hard to gather as much information as possible on the potential impact of COVID-19 to provide appropriate advice. 

Concern has been raised that Para athletes may be at more risk of severe disease from COVID-19, in the same way as has been stated for elderly people and for people with certain underlying health conditions. 

However, the Paralympic athlete population is not a homogeneous group. Para athletes are all individuals with very different underlying conditions and health needs, so the notion of a one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 is not appropriate or representative of an individual athlete’s risk.

Nevertheless, because of the severity of the impairment or any associated immune deficit or chronic condition, some athletes could be more vulnerable. There are no current studies on the potential impacts of coronavirus on Para athletes. The honest answer is that we don’t know because this is a new strain of coronavirus and there are very little data available.

Consultation with the IPC Medical Committee and International Federation medical experts, as well as information provided by the WHO, indicates that there has been no evidence that an athlete with disability in general have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Para athletes are also more experienced than is the general population to following hand hygiene, coughing etiquette and general infection avoidance procedures as part of illness prevention education - this has been a principle of Para athlete education for some time. However, at this time we all should be even more vigilant in this regard.

The IPC will continue to seek advice from the WHO, but ultimately athletes are the best judge of their own body and their medical needs.

Our advice for Para athletes is that they should follow the current medical guidance from the WHO and their national guidelines on prevention and seek advice from medical professionals. We would urge any athlete displaying the symptoms to report to their local medical authorities without delay. 

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