Concerns grow over Indian cricket tour of South Africa amid expansion of Omicron variant

Kanpur: The new variant of COVID-19, which threatens to wreak havoc in South Africa, has raised significant concerns about India’s Rainbow Nation tour next month, and BCCI sources say any decision on the issue will be based on government advice.

India’s ongoing tour of South Africa, with three unofficial tests at Bloemfontein, could also be halved halfway given the uncertain situation that has prompted several guest athletes to seek a way out of the country.

The first game ended in a draw on Friday due to bad weather, and the second game starts on November 29th. The team is currently in a bio-bubble and matches are played without spectators.

Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur also said on Saturday that the Indian Cricket Control Committee (BCCI) should consult with the government before sending a cricket team to South Africa where a new variant of Covid-19 has emerged.

“Not only the BCCI, but each committee should also consult with the Indian government before sending a team to a country where a new variant of COVID-19 has emerged. It is not right to send a team to a country where there is a threat, if BCCI consults us, we will consider it, ”Thakur said.

The seniors of India, during the nearly seven-week assignment starting Dec. 17, are scheduled to play three tests, three ODIs and four T20 Internationals in four venues – Johannesburg, Centurion, Paarl and Cape Town.

“Let’s wait and see, let’s follow the government’s advice. This is a situation that is evolving, “a senior source from the BCCI told PTI on Friday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked about the tour and the rise of the new variant, answered on Friday: “… this question is more for our health authorities and those responsible for civil aviation. It’s a developing story. “

The number of cases is on the rise in the northern part of the country and at least two sites for a series of tests – Johannesburg and Pretoria (near Centurion) – could become vulnerable to the spread of the new variant.

“Look, until we get a detailed picture of the situation on the ground from Cricket South Africa (CSA), we won’t be able to say our next step. According to the current plan, the Indian team should leave on December 8 or 9 immediately after the New Zealand series ends in Mumbai, ”the source said.

The tour is ongoing for now, but it is understood that BCCI will talk to Cricket South Africa in the next few days about discovering a new variant – B.1.1.529 -, which has set alarm bells around the world.

Scientists believe that a large number of spiky mutations could make the new variant more resistant to vaccines, make it more transmissible and cause an increase in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

On Friday, it was announced that the Netherlands had withdrawn from its ongoing tour of South Africa, while the first ODI between the two sides was played in Centurion, where the other two matches took place.

Cricket South Africa said the decision would not be made until the next two days as flight options for passengers were affected by travel bans that came into force due to the new variant.

“The decision to continue the series will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours, while all flight options are being considered,” Cricket South Africa said as speculations swirled.

“Both administrations can confirm that after the updated information it is very unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend,” it adds.

A BCCI official indicated that although players will be sent on a charter flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg, there is a possibility that after arrival they will go through three to four days of severe quarantine given the changed circumstances, which the administration hopes will not worsen improve.

“Initially, there was no strict quarantine, but obviously the players will stay in the bio-bubble. Now that the number of cases in South Africa and the European Union that are also temporarily canceling flights is growing, we need to take these aspects into account, ”said a senior source from the BCCI.

PTI has also contacted a member of the administrative staff currently based in Bloemfontein with the Indian A team.

“We were not subjected to severe quarantine upon arrival here because we came on a charter flight and are staying in a bio-bubble. After the outbreak, the South African cricket medical team had a meeting with our representatives here.

“We have been told there is no reason to worry as the increase in cases is far from Bloemfontein where we will play our next match as well,” the official said by phone.

“We have been explicitly told that Bloemfontein is not affected by the sharp rise in COVID cases, and it is also happening in the northern part of the country,” he added.

He also informed that as of Friday, the A team had not received any instructions from the BCCI.

“So far, BCCI has not informed us about the termination of the tour halfway. We will do as we are told. Right now, the players are going to the gym, ”he said.

“We have no complaints about the bio bladder because both teams are housed in the same hotel, even the catering staff and ground staff are in a balloon.

“Yesterday when we got some news about the new variant we immediately contacted and requested an urgent meeting with the CSA medical team … We can only rely on CSA updates and advice.”

-With entrances from ANI

Also read: Hunting for Covid strains: How the Omicron variant was found and what we know so far

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