South African cricket board, in cohesion with the BCCI, has announced a revised set of Covid-19 protocols and bio-bubble norms for India’s three-Test and three-ODI tour of the rainbow nation amid the Omicron threat.
As per the revised health regulations of CSA, ESPNcricinfo reported, “immediate contacts” of individuals testing Covid-19 positive will “not need to isolate” and those testing positive will not need to leave the bubble created for both the teams and can quarantine in their hotel room as long they are “clinically stable”.
With the Indian contingent reaching South Africa on December 17, CSA, in “coordination with the BCCI”, has announced these new bubble norms recognising that all members part of the Bio-secure Environment for the series will be fully vaccinated. Thus, helping the two boards ensure ease of tackling any sudden positive case or cases.
“Considering that all those within the ecosystem will be vaccinated, the positive case will isolate within the hotel room if clinically stable. Contacts will continue playing and training with non-medical interventions strictly observed, and tested daily,”Shuaib Manjra, CSA’s chief medical officer, told ESPNcricinfo.
Earlier CSA’s idea was to put in place a more relaxed set of health protocols and regulations for the summer, including the India series, with the third wave of coronavirus cases beginning to end around October. However, the emergence of the virus’ dangerous variant Omicron led to a forced change of plans.
“Whilst at the end of the third wave we considered moving from a strict BSE to a managed environment, the Omicron variant and high levels of community transmission have forced a strict BSE,”Manjra confirmed.
The Omicron has already had an effect on India’s tour of South Africa. What was originally planned as an all-format trip had to be rejigged in mutual agreement by both the countries’ cricket boards. The Omicron threatened to cancel India’s arrival, but a positive directive from the two national governments allowed Virat Kohli & company to make a week-delayed arrival.
But that meant the postponement of the four-match T20I series that was also originally part of the tour. Those T20Is, both BCCI and CSA confirmed, will be played at a more “opportune time” next year, potentially near the T20 World Cup. CSA, though, will be relieved that the Tests and ODIs will go ahead, as the India series is extremely important to their financial stability amid the pandemic times.
The Omicron was detected by the health experts in South Africa before those findings and the details about the Covid-19 variant were shared with the World Health Organisation, which has deemed that the Omicron carries a “very high global risk” and could lead to another major spike in Covid-19 infections, rating the threat “severe”.
But despite this, BCCI showed a strong level of trust in CSA and its health protocols for the series by keeping the tour on. The Indian board allowed the India ‘A’ side to continue with their three-match four-day series and also green signalled the national men’s side departure for the tour.
India will start off the series on Boxing Day with the first Test of the Gandhi-Mandela Trophy in Centurion, before playing the New Year’s Test in Johannesburg from January 3 and the last Test in Cape Town from January 11. The ODI leg of the tour will be played in Paarl and Cape Town on January 19, 21 and 23.
Manjra indicated that there could be a maximum of “2000 spectators” allowed to make the grounds for these matches as currently “permitted” by the South African government.