The BCCI and Cricket South Africa have mutually agreed that the upcoming Test and ODI series between the two teams will continue even if there is any COVID-19 case among players or support staff and close contacts will not be forced into isolation, the host board’s medical officer Shuaib Manjra has said.
India will start their three-match Test series against the Proteas on December 26 at the Centurion followed by Tests in Johannesburg (January 3-7) and Cape Town (Jan 11-15).
The Tests will be followed by three ODIs on January 19, 21 and 23.
While there is a specific agreement that BCCI can pull out of the tour in case situation in South Africa, where the new variant Omicron was found, worsens, a senior official said that they are not contemplating any such move as of now.
“There is an agreed medical protocol between Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI),” Cricket South Africa provided Manjra’s comments to PTI.
“Considering that everyone within the Bio-Secure Environments’ (BSE) and the broader cricket ecosystem will be vaccinated, any positive case will isolate within their designated hotel room if clinically stable, or an alternate space within the hotel,” he added.
Respective team doctors will take care of the players in case any of them test positive for the virus.
“They will remain under the care of their respective team doctors. Any contacts (close or incidental) will continue playing and training with non-pharmaceutical interventions strictly observed. All team members will undergo symptom screening and COVID-19 testing daily, and the tour will proceed as planned,” he added.
It is understood that Rapid Antigen Tests will be carried out daily and both teams are ready for the eventuality that there will be positive cases. But as long as proper precautions are taken, the series will continue.
Even hotel staff were put in a bio-bubble one week before the Indian contingent’s arrival.
“Hotel staff have been living in their respective BSE’s for at least seven days prior to the arrival of both teams and have tested on a daily basis prior to the arrival of the teams,” Manjra further added.
Manjra informed that at all the venues, the Indian squad will be lodged at luxurious resorts with lot of open spaces to make their stay comfortable.
“In order to promote a happy and comfortable BSE for the teams, CSA has ensured that the hotels that the teams are staying in have large outdoor spaces that allow for safe recreational activities and have allowed teams to travel with their families,” Manjra said.
As far as the BCCI is concerned, cancellation of the tour is not an option as of now.
“The BCCI is very satisfied with the kind of bio-bubble that CSA has provided for the Indian team. Yes, we will definitely take a decision which is in best interests of our players and their families.
“As of now, everyone is in the bubble and being tested regularly,” a senior BCCI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
“The bone of contention was what happens to close contacts. You can have one player or support staff testing positive but in earlier times, we have seen that close contacts, even if they return negative in RT-PCR, have to isolate themselves. When that happens, it becomes difficult to continue with the matches,” the official said.
The tour by India is very important for Cricket South Africa from a commercial rights point of view besides the massive broadcast rights money to be earned from the series.
The matches in this series will be played behind closed doors.