The IBU are confident that its new World Cup season will go ahead as planned, despite the surging number of COVID-19 cases in Europe ©Getty Images

Only fully vaccinated, recovered or polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-tested athletes and officials will be allowed to take in events organised by the International Biathlon Union (IBU) this season, it has been announced.

The IBU Executive Board announced its COVID-19 protocols for its new campaign, due to start on November 27 with the first Biathlon World Cup event in Swedish resort Östersund.

The Biathlon World Cup takes place exclusively in Europe, an area where coronavirus cases have soared recently - more than 50 percent last month - and the worrying trend has continued this month as winter begins to bite.

Dr. Hans Kluge, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe region, warned earlier this month that the region was "back at the epicentre of the pandemic".

The WHO revealed recently that nearly two million cases were reported across Europe in a single week - the most the region has had since the pandemic began.

The second Biathlon World Cup event of the season is due to start on December 10 in Hochfilzen in Austria, which has recently faced a particularly worrying surge in cases.

Last season's Biathlon World Cup was badly affected by COVID-19 and a number of changes were forced upon the IBU, including having to drop an event in Beijing, the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, and substituting it with another round at Nové Město in the Czech Republic. 

A number of competitors also tested positive and were quarantined during the course of the season. 

IBU President Olle Dahlin is expecting more problems this season.

IBU President Olle Dahlin has warned that flexibility will be needed during the new season as the sport continues to cope with the affects of COVID-19 ©Getty Images
IBU President Olle Dahlin has warned that flexibility will be needed during the new season as the sport continues to cope with the affects of COVID-19 ©Getty Images

"The IBU’s main priority for the upcoming 2021-2022 season is to protect the health of athletes and event participants and to guarantee safe and fair competitions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Dahlin said.

"Even under the currently very dynamic COVID-19 developments in Europe, we are confident that with the plans we have in place we will deliver that, and we cannot wait for the season to begin.

"There will be some challenges which will require flexibility by all stakeholders, but with everyone working together and following the rules we will be able to overcome them and enjoy excellent biathlon competitions."

Besides having either to be fully vaccinated, recovered or regularly PCR-tested, people attending IBU events will have to wear masks at all indoor facilities at venues.

The IBU Executive Board claimed it has been guided by the expert advice of its Medical Advisory Group in preparing the safety measures which will be implemented over the course of the season.

The IBU was advised by its medical experts that the vaccination of athletes, officials and all participants will be the most effective way to deliver events safely.

Event participants who have not been vaccinated, or who have not recently recovered from COVID-19, will have to provide negative PCR tests to enter and stay in the IBU event bubble.

The same PCR testing requirement might apply for vaccinated persons who have not received vaccines which are accepted within the event hosting country.

Additional requirements for travel and entry into the host countries of the IBU events, including rules on approved vaccines, quarantine periods for non-vaccinated individuals and required COVID-19 testing, may be required depending on national legislation in each respective country.

The IBU, together with its Organising Committees and National Federations, revealed it is in close contact with the authorities in the host countries to find solutions that guarantee fair and equal participation rights for all vaccinated athletes to participate in the competitions this winter.