Six Pakistan cricketers test positive for COVID-19 in NZ

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Six members of the Pakistan cricket squad in New Zealand have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been moved from managed isolation into quarantine.

Two of the cases were described as “historical” and four were new. The Pakistan touring group, including 53 players and officials, was tested after arriving on Tuesday. All six positive cases were being moved to the quarantine arm of their isolation facility.

Cricket officials also said closed-circuit television footage showed some members of the Pakistan squad had contravened protocols on the first day of managed isolation.

“We will be having discussions with the tourists to assist them in understanding the requirements,” New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said in a statement. “NZC considers public health and safety to be paramount in the hosting of international teams and is supportive of the Ministry of Health and government position.”

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said the infractions of isolation rules occurred “despite clear, consistent and detailed communication of expected behaviours while in the facility”.

“The team as a whole has been issued with a final warning,” the ministry said in a statement.

File photo shows Pakistan players celebrating their win in the third Twenty20 cricket match against England at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. PHOTO: AP

The Pakistan team’s exemption to practice while in managed isolation will be withheld until an investigation has been completed. All players were tested four times before their departure from Lahore to New Zealand and were negative on each occasion.

New Zealand Cricket said while the positive cases were disappointing, their early discovery showed New Zealand government protocols around touring teams are working.

As for the protocol breach, New Zealand Cricket said it will work more closely with the Pakistan squad to ensure it understands and complies with isolation rules. No members of the public were endangered, it said.

New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said breaches of managed isolation rules were taken very seriously.

“It is a privilege to come to New Zealand to play sport,” he said. “But in return teams must stick to the rules that are designed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities and keep our staff safe.”

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said the focus now as on keeping the rest of the squad and local staff safe, and so all members of the Pakistan squad will have to remain in their rooms until further notice.

Pakistan will play three Twenty20 internationals against New Zealand, beginning on December 18, and two test matches the first of which starts on December 26.

New Zealand will play a series against the West Indies before it meets Pakistan.

The West Indies team, which begins a Twenty20 series today, was also found to have breached protocols while in managed isolation earlier this month. CCTV footage showed players mixing in hotel corridors and sharing food, beaching the requirements of their internal bubbles.

The West Indies team was forced to cease training after the breaches were discovered.

New Zealand has contained the coronavirus well, recording 25 deaths and just over 2,000 confirmed cases. The country went 102 days without a case of community transmission through the southern winter. Most restrictions have been lifted on gatherings, although masks are required on public transport in Auckland.