The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to continue the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) as per schedule amid reports that the league could be interrupted for a few days due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Islamabad United camp.
The decision was conveyed to the members of the press by PCB Director - Media and Communications, Samiul Hasan Burney at a press conference.
"Tonight's fixture between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators will go ahead as scheduled," Burney said.
He further revealed that of the 244 PCR tests conducted, three have returned positive tests.
Two of the three infected personnel were foreign players, including Islamabad United's Fawad Ahmed, whose positive test was made public on Monday and led to the rescheduling of Islamabad, Quetta fixture.
The identity of the other foreign player has not been disclosed. The third person is a member of the support staff.
"We conducted 244 PCR tests, in addition to the rapid tests conducted," Burney said. "Of the 244 tests, three have come back positive. Two foreign players and one support staff have tested positive."
Burney said that all three personnel had been isolated from the rest, adding that they were being quarantined at a different floor on the hotel. The PCB media director shared that Fawad will undergo "a repeat test" today
He said that all other people who are in the bio-secure bubble will be retested for the virus on Thursday. "At the moment, more than 300 people are in the bubble," he said. "These include players, officials, support staff, franchise owners and security officials," he added, disclosing that rapid tests of the broadcast crew and the staff of the National Stadium had been conducted.
Burney said that the PCB will hold a virtual meeting at 3pm with franchise owners and management teams to take them into confidence, give them reassurances and remind them to ensure SOPs are not violated.
He said that the organising committee of the PSL has told all players to "excercise caution" at the moment. "We have not told players to go into quarantine or self-isolation," he said.
Burney said that Fawad Ahmed and the three others who tested positive for the virus today will be quarantined for 10 days.
In response to a question, Burney said that it isn't possible to ascertain where the breach in the bio-secure bubble occurred. "You know that life inside the bubble is quite difficult," he said. "So is its management and as you said, it happens in sports events across the world be it the Formula 1 or the NFL," he added.
The PCB official said that there is no way to ascertain the causes of the bubble getting breached, saying that it was the collective responsibility of everyone, most importantly of the PCB, to ensure that the prestige of the tournament is not affected in the least.
He said that the cricket board was taking every step to ensure compliance of coronavirus SOPs. "You know that when the ball is thrown into the stands and the fans grab it, the umpire wipe the germs from it [before handing it back to the players]," he said. "They have wipes and everything.
He reiterated that these challenges were being faced by different sports organisers across the globe.
In response to another question, Burney said that every person inside the bubble has to undergo a process, whether they are cricketers or franchise owners.
"These people have to isolate themselves for three days and that too, after two negative (PCR tests)," he said, adding that still, tough decisions needed to be taken in today's virtual meeting called by the organising committee with franchise owners and management teams.
In response to another question, Burney said that till March 16, cricket stadiums will host PSL matches for crowds up to 50% of the capacity, in line with the NCOC's directives.
He said that it would be wrong to say that the PCB had not responsibly managed the bio-secure bubble, repeating that it is very difficult to create a bubble and live inside it.
Burney said that the PCB is reminding the crowds to ensure compliance of the coronavirus SOPs, adding that it is an "ongoing process where there is a lot of room for improvement".