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View from the coronavirus front line: French referee on life as emergency room doctor

By Online Editors

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Top 14 referee Thomas Charabas has described life on the front line in the medical fight against the coronavirus in France. 


The 31-year-old is working as a full-time emergency room doctor in Bayonne and has spoken to Midi Olympique about his experiences fighting the virus. 

“In Bayonne, the flow of patients is controlled. We were fortunate not to have a ‘cluster’… but every day we have more and more consultations for respiratory reasons.

“One of the good effects of confinement is there are pathologies that we almost no longer see. Since people go out less and do less sports, there is less trauma, fewer car accidents, things like that. 

“We don’t think about it [fear the virus]. As far as I’m concerned, I’m young, but I understand that some of my older colleagues can ask questions, knowing that the first deaths have been observed among the nursing staff. 

“We try to be careful when dressing and undressing, to wash regularly, to respect the barrier gestures to the letter. When the slightest sign appears, you should get tested. But if we, doctors, start to be afraid, we will not get out…

“When you think about it, it’s just like concussions. When players are concussed and lack the lucidity or honesty to say so, they endanger themselves and penalise the team. 


“As far as we are concerned as caregivers, if we have symptoms and ignore them because we want to do too much, we put ourselves in danger and we endanger patients, even if you only have a cold. 

“To push the comparison, protocols exist. Players have concussion protocols that allow them to decide if they can return to the field. We have screenings that confirm or deny whether or not we are affected by the virus. And if the test allows it, don’t worry, we come back to the field. Otherwise, there is a rest period before returning there.”

French rugby club presidents are now hoping to resume the Top 14 in late May or early June, with a final now pencilled in for Paris on July 18. Charabas hasn’t given the sport much thought in recent weeks, but he hopes rugby does return and it will mean only one thing. 

“It all depends on the evolution of the epidemic. If the risk of contagion is less important, I would not be shocked if the championship resumed, but this is only the point of view of an emergency doctor from Bayonne. 


“Unfortunately we can’t predict, and I have no information about it… all I can tell you is that if we resume, I will be the happiest because that will mean that we won our fight!”

WATCH: Ian McKinley chats to Jim Hamilton in the debut episode of The Lockdown, the new RugbyPass series

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View from the coronavirus front line: French referee on life as emergency room doctor