England's Sri Lanka tour under threat after new Covid-19 strain found

England’s tour of Sri Lanka plunged into further doubt after new Covid-19 strain discovered in South Africa… with Mickey Arthur’s team currently gearing up for two Tests against the Proteas in Centurion and Galle

  • A further strain of Covid-19 has been discovered in South Africa
  • England’s recent tour of South Africa ended due to positive virus tests
  • Seven England Test players are due to leave for Sri Lanka on January 2
  • However, that tour is now in doubt as Sri Lanka are currently in South Africa 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was thrown into further doubt on Wednesday by the new strain of Covid-19 discovered in South Africa.

Seven members of England’s Test squad are due to leave for Hambantota on January 2 and four of their coaches only returned from the aborted tour of South Africa 13 days ago.

Those players – Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler – and coaches Chris Silverwood, Paul Collingwood, Jon Lewis and James Foster have been granted exemption from the new quarantine measures announced yesterday by health secretary Matt Hancock.

Jos Buttler and Joe Root were both granted exemptions from recent quarantine measures

Dimuth Karunaratne is captaining Sri Lanka as they prepare for two tests against South Africa

But the situation is complicated by the current presence of Sri Lanka in South Africa for two Tests starting in Centurion on Boxing Day and they are only due to arrive home six days before the first Test in Galle on January 14.

‘The ECB can confirm those team members and support staff who returned on December 10 from South Africa have been following the Elite Sports International guidance concerning activity in the UK,’ said the ECB in a statement last night.

‘During this period they have undergone ongoing symptom and testing checks and will not need to quarantine. 

‘The squad will continue to prepare as normal and the ECB will continue to monitor the situation in respect of international travel and will work closely with Sri Lanka Cricket.’

England abandoned their short white-ball trip to South Africa ahead of three 50-over matches when the bio-secure conditions that had been set up at their hotel in Cape Town were found to have been breached. 

England’s tour of South Africa was abandoned after several Proteas had positive Covid tests

Three South African players and a member of the Vineyard Hotel staff who had been in close contact with England’s players all tested positive for the virus. 

There was already concern in Sri Lanka, who have had a robust approach to the pandemic since England originally abandoned their tour in March, about hosting them again now because of the Covid variant that began in south-east England.

And now Sri Lanka will have to decide whether they can select their own players who had so recently been in South Africa for the first of two scheduled Tests against England. 

A member of staff at the hotel where England and South Africa stayed also tested positive

One possible solution is to delay the first Test until they have properly isolated or they could only select players who have not travelled to South Africa.

For now England remain privately ‘hopeful’ the tour will still take place but with international travel being more and more restricted and the pandemic crisis seemingly evolving by the day, they face an anxious wait before the go ahead can possibly be granted.

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