Pakistan team gets final warning after six players test positive in New Zealand

Two cases are of coronavirus reinfection, four marked as new: All six moved into quarantine and team’s exemption to train while in isolation revoked

By: News Desk      Published: 10:27 AM, 26 Nov, 2020
Pakistan team gets final warning after six players test positive in New Zealand

Six members of the visiting Pakistan cricket team have tested positive for Covid-19 while in managed isolation in Christchurch, New Zealand Cricket said on Thursday, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

All six have been moved into quarantine and the team’s exemption to train while in isolation revoked.

“Two of these six results have been deemed “historical”; four have been confirmed as new,” NZC stated in a release. “This means that, in line with the protocols governing the squad’s entry into New Zealand, the six members of the squad will be moved to the quarantine arm of the managed isolation facility.

“As a consequence, the Pakistan team’s exemption to train while in managed isolation has been put on hold until investigations have been completed,” said New Zealand Cricket.

The team is currently in managed isolation in Christchurch, ahead of their series against the Blackcaps next month.

Chateau on the Park Hotel in Christchurch is one of the isolation facilities.

Prior to leaving Lahore, all members of the Pakistan touring squad returned negative results on the four occasions they were tested.

New Zealand Cricket says it has been made aware that some members of the Pakistan team had contravened protocols on the first day of managed isolation. "We will be having discussions with the tourists to assist them in understanding the requirements," says NZC.

"NZC considers public health and safety to be paramount in the hosting of international teams, and is supportive of the Ministry of Health and Government position."

"While this is disappointing for the Pakistan squad, the testing outcomes and the actions taken show the government system is working," NZC said in a statement.

Pakistan's cricket tour of New Zealand was in the balance as the team received a "final warning" for flouting quarantine rules. New Zealand health authorities revoked the Pakistan players' ability to train while in isolation at their Christchurch hotel, making clear they would not tolerate risky behaviour in a country that has largely eradicated the virus.

"It is a privilege to come to New Zealand to play sport, but in return, teams must stick to the rules that are designed to keep Covid-19 out of our communities," director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement.

The health ministry said Pakistan's 53-member tour party, led by skipper Babar Azam, tested negative before leaving Lahore and were swabbed again after arriving for a spell of managed isolation on the South Island on Tuesday.

Six tests came back positive and those affected were moved into stricter quarantine, it said, with New Zealand Cricket adding that four cases were new and two were regarded as "historical". "While this is disappointing for the Pakistan squad, the testing outcomes and the actions taken show the government system is working," NZC said.

Bloomfield said CCTV showed members of the tour party breaching social distancing protocols. "The team as a whole has been issued with a final warning," he said. "It's important to note that all incidents of breaches occurred within the facility and there is no risk to the public."

The West Indies cricket team were also reprimanded by New Zealand health authorities for similar breaches earlier this month when they were in managed isolation.

- 'Robust procedures' -

New Zealand has largely eradicated community transmission of coronavirus recording just 1,684 cases and 25 deaths in a population of five million.

Aggressive testing, snap lockdowns and effective contact tracing mean domestic life has largely returned to normal, but border control remain strict. 

All overseas arrivals must undergo two weeks in quarantine, although New Zealand Cricket negotiated special privileges to allow the tourists to train together.

Health authorities said these had been revoked after several team members were seen on CCTV "breaching managed isolation rules, despite clear, consistent and detailed communication of expected behaviours". 

The tour is scheduled to being with the first of three Twenty20 internationals in Auckland on December 18, followed by two Tests, but will be in jeopardy if there are any further breaches.

NZC said it was having discussions with the tourists to ensure they understood the quarantine requirements.

New Zealand's military helps manage border virus accommodation and air commodore Darryn Webb said there were robust procedures in place to deal with positive tests.

"Our focus is on keeping the rest of the squad and our staff safe," he said. "For that reason, all other team members must remain in their rooms while investigations continue."

Earlier this week, opener Fakhar Zaman was left out of Pakistan's touring party as a precautionary measure after he developed a fever before the team's departure on Monday. The left-hander had tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday but was then isolated in the team hotel in Lahore after coming down with a fever.

"The decision to withdraw Fakhar from the tour was made keeping the health of the rest of the squad members as a top priority," the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement regarding Zaman's health.

"We are constantly monitoring his condition and remain hopeful of his quick recovery; however he is not fit to travel with the squad and as such has been withdrawn from the touring party," team doctor Sohail Saleem said.

A 54-member Pakistan Cricket squad had been divided into four different groups on arrival in New Zealand – each group isolated from other groups, residing in separate blocks.