According to the Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) at The Pennsylvania State University in the United States, “there is no consistent, solid, reliable means by which to remove a stigma, even when there is compelling evidence that a person is not, or never was, infected or infectious.” Research undertaken by the CIDD has highlighted the social stigmas which can arise from infectious diseases in the community, throughout human history.

Behavioural psychologists will confirm that the concept of the "physical-isolation-bubble”, while determined by government fiat, will not be suddenly and immediately burst by a relieving public-health statement. It is entirely plausible that the manifest suspicion of strangers, bred by fear of infectious disease, will not be eliminated as quickly and as easily as it was created.

The CIDD states, “whether viewed through an ethic to do no harm, to protect the public's health, or for social justice, there is no support for stigmatising infectious diseases and every reason to actively avoid stigma promoting communication.”

How will the community change the increasing fear and mistrust of strangers, to one of trust? This will be one of the key questions and the challenge underpinning the recovery of community sport. It is likely that participants in organised community team sport will require sporting codes to describe what is “safe” in their playing environment, given the unconscious biases which may inevitably act as a disincentive to them taking part.

For some sporting codes, this may require, among other considerations, a review of what is considered acceptable on-field behaviour (with appropriate sanctions developed for examples of behaviour unacceptable in a post-COVID world), a possible change to protocols around the sharing of side-line refreshments, and (where sports are played in conditions conducive to the transmission of viral illness), closer consideration of the physical well-being of participants.

In life (as perhaps also in sport), “there is no passion so contagious as that of fear.”