Six touring Pakistan cricketers including former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed have tested positive for COVID-19 here, New Zealand Cricket announced on Thursday. The host cricket board also alleged a breach of the bio-secure protocol by the visitors who have been asked not train in quarantine and issued a "final warning".
A jumbo 53-strong Pakistan squad, led by Babar Azam, arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday and is serving a mandatory 14-day quarantine period as per COVID-19 protocol. "Two of these six results have been deemed 'historical'; four have been confirmed as new," NZC said in a statement without revealing the names of the players who have tested positive for the dreaded virus.
However sources in the PCB said that the six were Sarfaraz, Mohammed Abbas, Abid Ali, Naseem Shah, Rohail Nazir, Danish Aziz. All six members of the squad will be moved to the quarantine arm of a managed isolation facility. Pakistan are here for three T20 Internationals and two Tests. The series begins December 18 in Auckland.
"As a consequence, the Pakistan team's exemption to train while in managed isolation has been put on hold until investigations have been completed," the NZC stated.
The home board also spoke of a protocol breach but did not specify the exact nature of it. "Separately, NZC has also been made aware that some members of the Pakistan team had contravened protocols on the first day of managed isolation.
"We will be having discussions with the tourists to assist them in understanding the requirements," the NZC statement added.
According to New Zealand media, the Canterbury District Health Board's medical officer of health has sent a letter to the squad's management saying all team members must stay in their rooms until further advised. The breaches, reportedly caught on CCTV cameras, happened despite "clear, consistent and detailed communication of expected behaviours" according to a health ministry spokeswoman.
The country's Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said rule breaking was being taken very seriously. "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 and keep our staff safe," Bloomfield was quoted as saying by stuff.co.nz.
"The team as a whole has been issued with a final warning," he said.
At least 10 Pakistan cricketers had tested positive for COVID-19 before the team's England tour earlier this year. Prior to leaving Lahore, all members of the Pakistan squad returned negative results on the four occasions they were tested. In addition to the senior squad, Pakistan's A team is also here to compete in a couple of four-day matches beginning December 10.