CHRISTCHURCH: One more member of the Pakistan cricket team has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday, taking the tally of infections within the touring party to seven.

The latest individual will join other infected team-mates in quarantine.

Six members of the 53-member squad tested positive on Tuesday when the team arrived in New Zealand from Pakistan and began their compulsory 14-day stay in managed isolation. The seventh member tested positive on Friday when players and officials again were tested on the third day of their isolation period.

Under New Zealand rules, people in managed isolation generally are tested on the third and 12th days of the isolation period. The new infection was reported on Saturday by New Zealand’s ministry of health in its daily update of Covid-19 cases.

“One additional member of the Pakistan cricket squad has tested positive during routine testing,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement. “The remainder of the results from the squads day 3 swab testing apart from the six who have already returned a positive result are negative.”

People who test positive while in isolation can be held beyond the usual 14-day mandatory period.

The Pakistan team has already received a final warning from the health ministry after players breached protocols on their first day in isolation. The ministry said closed-circuit television footage from the teams Christchurch hotel showed squad members mingling in corridors and sharing food.

An exemption which would have allowed team members to train in small groups after their third day in isolation has been revoked. But will be reviewed later if no further breaches occur. Players and team management are required to stay in their rooms for the first three days of the isolation period.

New Zealand’s director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said he took a dim view of the team’s failure to obey the regulations which had been clearly spelled out to team members on their arrival. Further breaches might lead to the team being expelled from New Zealand.

“Rather than being in their own rooms which is a requirement for that first three days, until that first test comes back, there was some mingling in the hallways, chatting, sharing food and not wearing masks,” Bloomfield said.

A wider outbreak among squad members would also be a serious issue which might put the tour in jeopardy. Pakistan are due to play New Zealand in three Twenty20 Internationals and two Test matches, while a Pakistan ‘A’ tour will also be held concurrently.

The first T20 will take place on Dec 18 and the Tests are the main features of New Zealand’s domestic summer and also part of the ICC World Test Championship.

On Friday, the health ministry said the teams conduct had significantly improved after the warning was issued.

“We thank members of the team for their co-operation with the case investigations following the announcement of positive cases within the team,” the Ministry said. “Co-operation and compliance are critical in ensuring New Zealand is kept safe from Covid-19.”

The ministry said exemptions allowing teams to train while in managed isolation ‘are very difficult to obtain’ and Pakistan’s exemption was put on hold after several players were caught flouting social distancing protocols inside the quarantine hotel.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020

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