JOE ROOT and his players will not have to isolate over Christmas despite arriving back from South Africa on December 10.
And that means their two-Test tour of Sri Lanka should still go ahead as planned with the team departing on January 2.
Joe Root and his players will not have to isolate over ChristmasCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Health minister Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday that anybody returning from South Africa in the past two weeks must quarantine with immediate effect because of a “concerning” new strain of Covid-19.
But the ECB insisted today that players and backroom staff will be exempt.
A statement said: “The ECB can confirm that team members and support staff who returned on December 10 from South Africa as part of England men’s white-ball tour have been following the Elite Sports International guidance concerning activity in the UK.
“During this period, they have undergone on-going symptom and testing checks and will not need to quarantine.
“Regarding the England men’s Test squad and support staff, they will continue to prepare as normal ahead of the Sri Lanka tour. The ECB will continue to monitor the on-going situation in respect of international travel and are working closely with Sri Lanka Cricket.”
The South African variant of Covid-19 follows the new strain that has increased transmission rates in the UK.
Medics and government authorities in Sri Lanka believe the new strain is unlikely to jeopardise the two-Test series.
But another complication could be that Sri Lanka are currently in South Africa for two Tests. The Second Test is due to finish in Johannesburg on January 7 – just a week before the opening Test against England.
Regarding the England men’s Test squad and support staff, they will continue to prepare as normal ahead of the Sri Lanka tour
Although Sri Lanka is one of many countries to have suspended flights from the UK, Root’s team will travel on a private charter.
Instead of landing in Colombo, they will fly directly to Hambantota, which has what is believed to be quietest international airport in the world with no scheduled flights. This will minimise contact with other people.
England players and support staff will spend their first three days in isolation at a hotel and, providing they continue to return negative results from regular Covid-19 tests, they can begin training. After three further days, they can train as a group.
They will travel by road to Galle in time for the two Tests, beginning on January 14 and 22.
The ECB and Sri Lanka Cricket have been discussing arrangements for weeks and those talks will continue right up until England’s departure from Heathrow on January 2.
England players will be tested for Covid-19 before leaving home and be provided with separate chauffeured cars to travel to Heathrow.
Health measures will be stricter than on England’s recent aborted tour of South Africa and checks on PPE, social distancing and hand sanitising will be rigorous.
The tour replaces England’s visit to Sri Lanka in March, which was called off during a warm-up match in the early weeks of the pandemic.
No written media are being permitted to enter Sri Lanka and BBC radio’s Test Match Special are commentating from the UK via the world TV feed. Sky are also expected to add commentary by the likes of Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton from their UK base.
Sri Lanka Cricket are desperate for the matches to take place and team doctor Daminda Attanayake said: “Anxiety is high at this stage from everybody. But, when you look at the scientific evidence, I don’t think we should stop the tour although we might have to take extra precautions.”
England are due to fly from Sri Lanka to India for four Tests and eight white-ball matches. Indian authorities are expected to wrap cordons of security personnel around hotels and grounds in an anti-terrorism style operation to try to reduce the chances of infection.
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