By AZ Aamir
KARACHI: Two more foreign players and a member of the local support staff have been tested positive for Covid-19.
This was revealed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Director Media and Communication Sami-ul-Hasan in a hurriedly-called news conference on Tuesday.
“Of the 244 PCR tests, conducted on Monday after Fawad Ahmed of Islamabad United was tested positive, three are positive. Two are foreign players and one local support staff member. These three have been quarantined at the different floor of the hotel,” Sami said.
“One belongs to Islamabad United and the other two belong to two different teams,” Sami said.
He refused to reveal the identity of the trio who returned positive Covid tests.
“It’s not appropriate for me to reveal their identity as it is not my prerogative,” Sami said.
Sami said Fawad’s repeat test will be conducted this evening. “Similarly, repeat tests will be conducted. The first repeat test of those people who are in the bubble will be conducted on Thursday. We wanted to conduct these after four days but from tomorrow these tests will be conducted after every three days,” Sami said.
“There are around 300 people inside the bubble. They include players, support staff, families, franchise owners, match officials and security officials,” Sami informed.
“Besides these tests the tests of the staff of the National Stadium have also been conducted. As many as 112 broadcast crew members, whose rapid tests had been conducted yesterday, have also passed through PCR tests today,” the PCB official said.
“The results of one team are awaited. This number will go up to 285 to 290,” Sami was quick to add.
“Immediately the PSL organising committee has sent a reminder to all for only exercising caution. No player has been told to go to isolation or self-quarantine. They have been merely told just to exercise caution,” Sami said.
“Fawad and the three members who have returned positives will remain for ten days in quarantine,” he said. “Its very difficult to determine how these cases emerged. You know bubble life is very difficult and its management is also difficult. In other sporting events of the world like Formula-One and Australian Open such breaches occur. It does not mean that the bubbles are weak or these have loopholes. In order to mitigate this repeat tests of the participants will be conducted on Thursday. Yesterday two sets of tests were conducted which included rapid as well as PCR,” he explained.
“Protecting the integrity and reputation of the event is our responsibility, especially of the PCB. That is why all such steps are being taken.
Besides this we had also conducted tests of the ground staff. They have also been instructed to wear gloves when on ground. The ball, which goes into the fans stands, is sanitised. Umpires have the wipes. All that work is being done in order to protect the integrity of the event,” Sami said. “But we are operating in a very different environment and the entire world is facing such challenges and wherever sports events are being conducted they are meeting and overcoming such challenges. We will also try with the help of the franchise owners so that we could dispose of this event in a good way,” the PCB media chief said.
He made it clear that nobody can enter the bubble without passing through the protocols.
“Whoever comes to the bubble, passes through a protocol whether they are owners, players or anyone else. They are to spend three days in isolation and after returning two negative tests they become part of the bubble,” he said.
“This is the situation but strict measures will have to be taken,” he was quick to add.
He clarified that as usual fifty percent crowds will be operated. “NCOC has given us permission. Finals fans ratio will be decided later but until Lahore preliminary matches until March 16 will be operated on 50 percent crowd,” he said.
He rejected the impression that PCB has made any lapse which resulted in the break-up of the bubble.
“Creating the bubble is a challenge and especially for those who spend life in the bubble. Our team has remained in the bubble in England and New Zealand or here in domestic cricket. We know how challenging it is to spend life in the bubble. Minor breaches happen. It is not appropriate to say that it has not been taken seriously. It’s a marquee event, best players come and play here and it has created a name at the global level. There are stakes of PCB, players, owners and media. I don’t think it’s right to say that PCB had created a weak bubble or it had not been taken seriously,” Sami said.
“If bubbles broke in Australian Open, or it happened in the NHL or Formula-One so they had also been created weak? Bubbles are tight but if 300 people are in them so sometimes minor issues come and the bubble is breached,” he said.
He said no foeign player has shown any concern following the development.
“No foreign player has shown so far any such concern,” he said.
He made it clear that there is no option with the PCB to reduce the number of matches as it has signed an agreement of 34 matches.
Responding to a question Sami said that Islamabad United is in touch with the Fawad family. “Fawad is getting the best treatment. Not only Fawad but the remaining three have also been placed on a separate floor in the hotel and with a proper medical team they are being looked after,” Sami said. “Fawad is himself optimistic. We talk with Fawad and his team,” he added.
Meanwhile, according to sources, franchise owners have requested the PCB for strict implementation of the SOPs during their virtual meeting with the PSL Organising Committee on Tuesday.
On Monday the match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators had been postponed for a day after United’s leggie Fawad Ahmed’s Covid test returned positive.