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World Snooker referee dons a different suit to lead fight against Covid-19

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Olivier Marteel

Image credit: Eurosport

ByTom Bennett
20/04/2020 at 10:05 | Updated 21/04/2020 at 09:54
@tommbennett

One of the leading referees in World Snooker is playing a frontline role in the fight against coronavirus in Belgium.

Olivier Marteel, who would have been at the Crucible this week for the World Championship, is instead working full-time as a nurse at the AZ West hospital in Veurne.

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The referee has been drafted in to help staff a special Covid-19 department, moving from his usual role in radiology.

“When the virus because widespread, each hospital created an extra Accident and Emergency department, so there was one for Covid patients and one for everything else,” Marteel told World Snooker.

My head nurse asked me if I could work on the Covid A&E department. I would have been in Sheffield so this fortnight was clear in my diary.

“I am working on triage so I am the first person that patients see when they come in. My job is to assess them, check their symptoms, find out if others in their family have been ill, and then I decide whether they need to be tested for Covid or to see a doctor. So I am seeing a lot of patients every day.

“To some extent it is basic nursing because I am judging the symptoms. And I am used to being on the front line because in radiology I do X-Rays and CT scans which show whether cancer is growing, so I see that information first and pass it to the oncologist. But of course I have never worked in an A&E situation like this before."

Marteel has taken charge of some major snooker matches in his career, few more high profile than the 2015 World Championship final, but says that it doesn't come close to matching the pressure of his day job:

I have always said that refereeing is a piece of cake compared to my main job. I treat snooker like a job as well of course, but for me it is a holiday. And that will never feel more true than when I’m back at a tournament – before long I hope.

The World Championship was due to take place in Sheffield from 18 April to 4 May. No new dates have been set.

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