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Calabar High School, based in Kingston, Jamaica, is just one of the many schools that will not be allowed to travel to the Penn Relays this April.

Credit: Chase Sutton

The 2020 Penn Relays were just dealt a significant blow on Tuesday, as the Jamaican government has implemented a travel ban on its schools from attending the annual track and field competition, as reported by the Jamaica Observer.

“I have confirmed that in terms of the Penn Relays, the Ministry of Education through Cabinet instructions, has advised schools not to participate in the Penn Relays this year,” said Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica's Minister of Health and Wellness, at a Tuesday press conference.

"Schools by now should have been advised that the Government is taking a position to not participate in the Penn Relays this year because that travel and the location could involve levels of risks that we would like to discourage and we are putting an advisory out against that travel."

The Relays, which includes races for athletes of all ages, has included Jamaican school teams since 1964, and the island nation's athletes compete on the highest level at the event.

Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson expressed his condolences for the Jamaican schools in a statement given to the Daily Pennsylvanian on Wednesday.

“We recognize the position of the Jamaican Ministry and sympathize fully with the plight of the many people affected. At this point, the Relays staff and volunteers are in full operational mode, as we fully hope to conduct the meet six weeks from now," he wrote.

"We recognize the coronavirus and the varied responses to it represent a very fluid situation, and we are monitoring all aspects of this as much as possible. In the meantime, we will continue to post updates to the Penn Relays website."

Even more devastating to the usually-electric environment is the potential lack of fans. Thousands of track and field supporters make the trip to Franklin Field from the Caribbean and beyond, and travel bans in place mean many of them will likely not journey to campus.

The 2020 Penn Relays are still scheduled to take place this Apr. 23-25 at Franklin Field and other venues around campus.

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