Covid variant in South Africa: BCCI not pulling out India ‘A’ team

Covid variant in South Africa: BCCI not pulling out India ‘A’ team, the vie

With the international touring teams scrambling to get out of South Africa after a new variant of the Covid-19 virus has started causing panic, India hasn’t pressed the panic button yet, rather sending teams to the country for sporting events.

India’s junior women’s hockey team, with a few U-18 players in their ranks, were scheduled to leave for South Africa on Saturday for the Junior Women’s World Cup until the International Hockey Federation decided to put the tournament on hold on Friday evening. The World Cup was to begin in Potchefstroom from December 5.

The India ‘A’ cricket team is currently touring the country, playing their first four-day game at Bloemfontein, while the senior India team is set to fly out to South Africa after their ongoing home series against New Zealand.

The BCCI has chosen to wait and watch despite a Health Ministry advisory to all the states that identified the new variant of the virus, B.1.1529, to potentially have “serious public health implications”.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry directed all the states that international travellers coming from and transiting through Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing due to multiple cases of the new variant of the virus reported in these countries.

The BCCI hasn’t cancelled the ‘A’ team tour yet and it is learnt that no communication has been sent to the team. “We need to get the details from Cricket South Africa before deciding our future course of action. We are keeping an eye on the development,” a BCCI official told The Indian Express.

As per the cricket board, the senior team’s tour to South Africa for three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is, starting on December 17, is on at the moment, although the situation is being considered as fluid. The Indian team had refused to play the fifth Test against England in Manchester in September following a Covid outbreak in the camp.

On Friday, after the first ODI between South Africa and the Netherlands was rained out, Cricket South Africa put out a statement that read: “Cricket South Africa (CSA) and Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond (KNCB) are aware of news reports doing the rounds regarding the Netherlands tour to South Africa being cancelled or postponed.”

It added: “Both boards can confirm that following updated information, it is highly unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend. The KNCB is reviewing all of its options while prioritising the physical and mental well-being of its players. A decision on the continuation of the series will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours, while all flight options are being considered.”

Today, Associated Press reported that British and Irish golfers and rugby teams were rushing to return home after the United Kingdom government announced it was banning flights from South Africa to counter the spread of a new Covid-19 variant. The report quoted UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid as saying that there were concerns the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the delta strain, and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective” against it.

Irish golfer Paul Dunne told RTE Radio that he has pulled out of the Joburg Open and planned to take a flight to Dubai on Friday. “I’d three holes to finish in my first round, and when I came in I turned my phone on and I had messages from everyone asking me if I was going to go to the airport or stay and play. That’s when I started to look into it,” Dunne told the radio show.

The United Rugby Championship, too, has been on hold. On Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the national public health institute of South Africa, said that a new Covid-19 variant has been detected in South Africa, with 22 positive cases recorded following genomic sequencing. The British science journal Nature reported that a World Health Organization (WHO) expert group was set to label the strain as a “variant of concern”.

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