Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has confirmed that seven more cricketers have returned positive tests for Covid-19, taking the total count to ten ahead of their England tour. On Monday, Shadab Khan, Haider Ali, and Haris Rauf had tested positive.
The new names on the list are Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hasnain, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, and Imran Khan. In addition, the PCB announced one member from the player support personnel had also tested positive for the virus.
According to the PCB CEO Wasim Khan, all seven players who tested positive are – like the three who returned positive tests on Monday – asymptomatic. Shoaib Malik, Waqar Younis and Cliffe Deacon have not yet been tested.
That means more than one third of the 29-man squad the PCB announced for a three-Test, three-T20I tour of England are currently positive for Covid-19, and will have to self-isolate for 14 days. The PCB CEO Wasim Khan announced plans for the team to travel to England on June 28th remained unchanged.
“The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on 28 June. Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammad Rizwan, are negative, which means they can start training and practicing immediately after they have been tested and given the all clear when they arrive in England. As regards the players, who have tested positive, we will continue to monitor and support them, including conducting antibody tests, and as soon as they test negative, they will be flown to join the squad in England. At the moment, they have been advised to go into self-isolation so that they not only recover quickly but also prevent their other family members from being infected.
“In the meantime, Misbah-ul-Haq is reviewing the training schedule in England and is firming up plans for reserve players to be tested as a backup.”
The PCB announced that all players who tested negative will assemble in a bio-secure environment on June 24 in Lahore, and undergo a second round of testing the following day. All those who test negative in that second round of testing will depart for Manchester on a chartered flight on 28 June, and be tested upon arrival in England. They will then have to quarantine for a period of 14 days in the country in line with government regulations, but will be permitted to train in a bio-secure facility during this time. Those who have tested positive will self-isolate at home for two weeks, and will only depart for England after returning two negative Covid-19 tests.
“The recent positive tests of some of the fittest athletes, who had not shown any symptoms, clearly reflect the danger this virus possesses,” Wasim Khan said. “As such, and on behalf of the PCB, I once again request the public to strictly adhere to all safety precautions as advised and recommended by the federal and provincial governments to ensure their health and safety as well as of their dear and near ones.”
Today’s developments further highlight the stark challenges of conducting an international tour in these times.