‘Mentally affected’ Pakistan squad allowed to leave isolation in New Zealand
Fifty-two members of Pakistan squad have been allowed to leave isolation in New Zealand after clearing final round of COVID-19 testing. Two individuals are still under quarantine in Christchurch.
The Pakistan cricketers complained Monday of being affected "mentally and physically" by New Zealand's strict Covid-19 protocols which have kept the players holed up in their quarantine hotel for nearly two weeks.
Since the 53-man squad of players and officials arrived last month, eight have tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing New Zealand health authorities to withdraw permission for the team to train in isolation.
Early in their stay, several team members were caught mingling together at their four-star quarantine hotel in Christchurch in breach of the managed isolation rules.
The players and support staff will move to Queenstown from Christchurch on Tuesday and begin practice and training sessions in groups ahead of their international fixtures against New Zealand, starting from December 18.
According to details, 51 members tested negative for coronavirus in the final round. One individual who completed his isolation in Auckland has also been allowed to join the squad in Queenstown.
Coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) will not be implemented on the members who have been cleared by the New Zealand authorities.
The two individuals still in quarantine will join rest of the squad after completing their isolation period.
"Top professional athletes require a certain environment to prepare so that they can perform at the minimum expected levels every time they represent their countries," Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq said in a statement.
He said Pakistan "respect and understand" the health and safety regulations imposed by New Zealand, but "there is no denying the fact that the implementation of certain regulations has affected our athletes, both mentally and physically prior to an international series."
All overseas arrivals to New Zealand must spend two weeks in quarantine, with sports teams which return negative tests for Covid after three days granted permission to train together in isolation.
Last Friday, 10 days after the Pakistan team arrived, New Zealand health officials said "ongoing concerns" about the risk of further infections meant their training ban could not be lifted.
"I want to compliment my players and the management team for their patience, sacrifices and the hardships they have endured to ensure they not only lead the safe resumption of international cricket during the Covid-19 pandemic ... but also try to give their best every time they step on the field," Misbah said.
He was hopeful the team would still be allowed to move out of isolation this week to focus on preparations for their first Twenty20 match against New Zealand on December 18.
Hamilton (December 20) and Napier (December 22) will host the second and third matches respectively.
The T20I series will be followed by two Tests at Mount Maunganui (December 26-30) and Christchurch (January 3-7).