Pakistan cricketers positive for COVID-19 in New Zealand

Pakistan players celebrate their win in the third Twenty20 cricket match against England at Old Trafford in Manchester, England in this Sept. 1, 2020 file photo. (AP)
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Updated 26 November 2020

Pakistan cricketers positive for COVID-19 in New Zealand

  • Pakistan team also receives a ‘final warning’ for flouting quarantine rules
  • New Zealand has largely eradicated community transmission of coronavirus

WELLINGTON: Pakistan’s cricket tour of New Zealand was in the balance Thursday after six squad members tested positive for COVID-19 and the team received a “final warning” for flouting quarantine rules.
New Zealand health authorities revoked the Pakistan players’ ability to train while in isolation at their Christchurch hotel, making clear they would not tolerate risky behavior in a country that has largely eradicated the virus.
“It is a privilege to come to New Zealand to play sport, but in return teams must stick to the rules that are designed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities,” director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement.
The health ministry said Pakistan’s 53-member tour party, led by skipper Babar Azam, tested negative before leaving Lahore and were swabbed again after arriving for a spell of managed isolation on the South Island on Tuesday.
Six tests came back positive and those affected were moved into stricter quarantine, it said, with New Zealand Cricket adding that four cases were new and two were regarded as “historical.”
“While this is disappointing for the Pakistan squad, the testing outcomes and the actions taken show the government system is working,” NZC said.
Bloomfield said CCTV showed members of the tour party breaching social distancing protocols.
“The team as a whole has been issued with a final warning,” he said.
“It’s important to note that all incidents of breaches occurred within the facility and there is no risk to the public.”
The West Indies cricket team were also reprimanded by New Zealand health authorities for similar breaches earlier this month when they were in managed isolation.
New Zealand has largely eradicated community transmission of coronavirus recording just 1,684 cases and 25 deaths in a population of five million.
Aggressive testing, snap lockdowns and effective contact tracing mean domestic life has largely returned to normal, but border control remain strict.
All overseas arrivals must undergo two weeks in quarantine, although New Zealand Cricket negotiated special privileges to allow the tourists to train together.
Health authorities said these had been revoked after several team members were seen on CCTV “breaching managed isolation rules, despite clear, consistent and detailed communication of expected behaviors.”
The tour is scheduled to being with the first of three Twenty20 internationals in Auckland on December 18, followed by two Tests, but will be in jeopardy if there are any further breaches.
NZC said it was having discussions with the tourists to ensure they understood the quarantine requirements.
New Zealand’s military helps manage border virus accommodation and air commodore Darryn Webb said there were robust procedures in place to deal with positive tests.
“Our focus is on keeping the rest of the squad and our staff safe,” he said.
“For that reason, all other team members must remain in their rooms while investigations continue.”
Even before Pakistan arrived on Kiwi soil the tour had been hit by ill health, with Pakistan’s dashing opener Fakhar Zaman ruled out at the 11th hour with a persistent fever.
The 30-year-old left-hander tested negative along with the rest of the squad.


Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Updated 22 January 2021

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

LONDON: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is focusing on potential signings in the January transfer window after trimming his squad but refused to be drawn on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard

Sokratis Papastathopoulos was released from his contract this week, while Mesut Ozil is on the brink of a transfer to Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba have already left on loan deals as Arteta seeks to re-balance his squad.

The Arsenal boss, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round match at Southampton, would not be drawn on reports linking the club with a loan move for Real’s attacking midfielder Odegaard.

But he said the focus would now turn to the entrance door rather than the exit at the Emirates.

“We are in that process now,” Arteta said on Thursday when asked if it was now time to start bringing players in.

“We have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase.

“Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.”

Arteta, whose team are FA Cup holders, said the departures had left his squad short in certain areas.

He said a left-back could be on the radar, with the decision to allow Kolasinac to join Schalke until the end of the season leaving him with only Kieran Tierney as a natural option.

“With the departure of Kola we are a little bit short with left-footed fullbacks at the moment,” he added.

Both Ozil and Sokratis were omitted from Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads for the first half of the season.

Arteta had stressed several times he was unhappy with the bloated nature of the squad and feels the departures will help him achieve a better balance.

“We could not carry on with 31 players in the squad,” he said. “It is unmanageable. And when you have to leave some of the foreign players out, it makes it even  more difficult.

“To do it for a few weeks is OK, to do it for months and maintain the health, the ambition and the chemistry is really complicated.

“So one of the main objectives was to make some decisions about how we are going to offset that. We have done it.”