As many as six Pakistan players have been tested positive for the global virus ahead of their three-match T20I series while being in isolation in Christchurch, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) confirmed on Thursday. According to NZC, four of them are new cases while the remaining two have been deemed 'historical'.
Those contracting the virus have been moved into quarantine, and the team's privilege of training while in isolation has been revoked. All 53 members of Pakistan's travelling contingent, including players and the staff, were tested upon arrival on November 24, and the aforementioned results are from those tests.
NZC said that it has warned the travelling party about the potential breach of the biosecurity protocols on the first day of their 14-day mandatory isolation. As a part of that, the team was not allowed to eat or train together outside their bubble. In a statement, New Zealand's health ministry said, “The team as a whole has been issued a final warning”.
"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 (the virus) out of our communities and keep our staff safe,” said Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
“We will be having discussions with the tourists to assist them in understanding the requirements,” NZC said. “While this is disappointing for the Pakistan squad, the testing outcomes and the actions taken show the government system is working."
“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.”
Earlier in the week, opener Fakhar Zaman was left out of the travelling squad after he developed symptoms of the virus before their departure on Monday. The 30-year-old had tested negative on Saturday and was isolating in the team hotel in Lahore but caught a sudden fever afterwards.
Pakistan, meanwhile, are not the first team to breach the protocols. West Indies, who play a three-match T20I series against New Zealand starting from November 27, were also warned about their actions after 'repeatedly' breaking the rules. It is said that the players were caught in the CCTV footage roaming in hallways and sharing food. They were also leaving their rooms outside of allocated time slots.
Pakistan are set to play three T20Is against New Zealand, starting from December 18 in Auckland, Hamilton and Napier respectively before playing two Test matches in Mount Maunganui (December 26-30) and Christchurch (January 3-7).
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Christiaan Kotze