September 27, 2021


travel, Always a step ahead

England squad members test positive for Covid with ODI cancelled and series in major doubt

England have 18 players to choose from and picked an expanded squad to account for this scenario, so unless there are more positive tests, or players start complaining of symptoms, they have enough to cover those in isolation and to continue with the tour.

Privately, England are saying they will do whatever they can to make sure the tour resumes, but the primary concern is the health and safety of all concerned.

The players were on Sunday understood to be very nervous about the possibility of the virus spreading in the hotel, with some worried about not being able to return home as planned.

The tour has been hit by positive Covid-19 tests since England arrived on Nov 17. The first ODI was postponed on Friday when a third South Africa player tested positive.

The series only received the go-ahead on Saturday morning when the rest of the South Africa squad tested negative but, by 5pm on Saturday, England were made aware that two members of the hotel staff had tested positive. One had been in close contact with the squad, prompting the medical staff to order an extra round of testing.

The series was supposed to start in Paarl on Sunday but, with half an hour to go before the toss, both sides were still at the team hotel, an hour away by car, in Cape Town awaiting the results.

The ODI was officially postponed an hour before it was announced by the England and Wales Cricket Board that two members of the England party had tested positive. The players and management were confined to their rooms before later being allowed to use the hotel grounds, while the two who returned positive results remained in isolation.

The hotel staff – and drivers – have not been allowed to leave the complex since England arrived, but somehow the virus has infiltrated the bio-bubble, raising questions over the robustness of Cricket South Africa’s Covid protocols.

The local police are in charge of security and players can only leave in official vehicles for training or to play golf in Boschenmeer, near Paarl.

At the golf course they have to follow strict hygiene protocols and are not allowed to go into the clubhouse.

England have held private concerns since arriving in South Africa, believing the regulations are not as strict as those at the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford last summer. The initial two South Africa players who tested positive had clearly contracted the virus before joining the squad, but the recent cases have shown the bio-bubble has been compromised.

England managed to deliver an entire international summer behind closed doors without a single positive test but a bio-bubble does not guarantee protection from the virus, it only lowers the risk.

The management have no issues with the hotel and believe the staff have done their best to follow guidelines. The rest of the hotel staff returned negative tests.

“At this stage, it is not clear how the staff members became infected as neither have left the bio-secure area since Nov 16 and they do not work on the same team or in the same area,” Roy Davies, general manager of the Vineyard Hotel, said.

England will now be closely reviewing the Covid controls that will be put in place for future tours to Sri Lanka and India.

Cricket South Africa, which is in financial trouble, faces losing £500,000 in broadcast revenue for each game that does not take place.

South Africa are due to host Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia after England and will be worried about those series taking place. In Cape Town there has been a 43 per cent increase in positive cases over the past week.

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