Six members of the Pakistan cricket squad, which is currently on a tour to New Zealand, have tested positive for the coronavirus, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said on Thursday.
The team also received a “final warning” for flouting quarantine rules. New Zealand health authorities revoked the 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.
In a statement posted on its website, NZC said it was "made aware today that six members of the Pakistan touring squad, currently in managed isolation in Christchurch, have tested positive for Covid-19". However, the statement did not name the players.
Two of the members who tested positive were "historical cases", it said, while the other four were new infections. NZC said the infected players would be moved into the quarantine wing of the managed isolation facility where they were staying.
The Pakistan team would also not be able to train until an investigation into the emergence of the cases has been completed, it added.
Meanwhile, the country's director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement: "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."
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.”
Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan was told by New Zealand authorities that "one more breach" of the country's Covid-19 protocols would lead to the entire Pakistan squad being deported, ESPNcricinfo reported.
"Boys, I spoke to the New Zealand government and they told us there were three or four breaches of protocols," Khan said in a WhatsApp voice message to the travelling players which was obtained by ESPNcricinfo.
"They have a zero-tolerance policy and they've given us a final warning. We understand that this is a difficult time for you, and you went through similar conditions in England. It's not easy. But this is a matter of the nation's respect and credibility. Observe these 14 days and then you'll have the freedom to go to restaurants and roam about freely. They have told me in clear terms that if we commit one more breach, they'll send us home."
The PCB CEO also told the players that being sent home without playing the scheduled matches would be "hugely embarrassing", according to the report.
Pakistan squad leaves for NZ
All members of the Pakistan cricket squad that left for New Zealand on Monday had been tested for the virus beforehand on four occasions, the results of which had come back negative.
The cricket body said it was also informed that "some members of the Pakistan team had contravened protocols on the first day of managed isolation," adding that it would hold discussions with them to "assist them in understanding the [isolation] requirements".
The Pakistan squad, which includes both Pakistan Senior and Shaheen teams, comprises 34 players and 20 supporting staff.
Chief selector and head coach Misbahul Haq had picked 35 players for the tour but on Sunday dashing opener Fakhar Zaman was sidelined due to high fever and could not travel with the team.
Pakistan will play two Tests and three T20s while Shaheens will also play two four-day and three T20 matches against New Zealand ‘A’. Pakistan’s T20 series will commence from Dec 18 and the Test series will start from Dec 26.
Babar Azam is leading Pakistan in all formats, including Tests, for the first time after having replaced Azhar Ali in the longer version of the game.