CHRISTCHURCH: The troubled Pakistan cricket team suffered another setback on Friday when it was denied the right to train while in managed isolation in New Zealand after eight members of the touring squad tested positive for Covid-19.

Under exemptions granted to visiting sports teams, members of the 53-strong Pakistan squad could have been allowed to leave their Christchurch hotel to train in small groups after the third day of their 14-day isolation period.

But the positive tests and a breach of isolation protocols by team members on their first day in isolation has led New Zealand authorities to withhold the training exemption.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, confirmed Friday the exemption would not be granted.

“I have very carefully considered this situation,” Bloomfield said. “At this time, I continue to have ongoing concerns about the risk of cross-infection within the squad.

“There have been a number of active cases identified among the team. Public health considerations will continue to be foremost in our response to Covid-19, whether this involves individuals or teams.

“We appreciate the challenges that this decision will have for the touring team.”

Pakistan were scheduled to have a four-day game starting on Dec 10 against New Zealand ‘A’ upon their release from isolation, but opted instead to play a series of intra-squad matches, New Zealand Cricket said late on Thursday.

The decision is a major setback for the Pakistan team which will begin a three-game Twenty20 International series against New Zealand on Dec 18 and a two-match Test series on Dec 26.

The visiting squad was issued a final warning after the breaches of isolation protocol occurred shortly after the team’s arrival in New Zealand last week. Close circuit television coverage from their hotel showed players breaking rules by mingling in corridors and sharing food.

Further breaches might have led to the team being expelled from New Zealand.

Players and officials are expected to remain in their own rooms for the first three days of the isolation period until the training exemption might come into force.

Squad members have been tested on the first, third day and sixth days of their stay in isolation.

All members tested negative on four occasions before the team left from Lahore to New Zealand but six members were positive on arrival. Two more have since returned positive tests and all eight are now in quarantine.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2020

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