Pakistan players breached COVID-19 protocols, says NZ DG Health

New Zealand’s director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. —  APF/Files

New Zealand’s director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has given details of how Pakistan players violated COVID-19 SOPs at their hotels and given the starkest of warnings of how seriously their offence was taken by the authorities.

Six of the 34 players in Pakistan’s combined seniors and Shaheens squads tested positive in the first COVID-19 test they took upon landing in New Zealand. They were identified as Sarfaraz Ahmed, Rohail Nazir, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Abid Ali and Danish Aziz by ESPN. All had cleared multiple tests in Pakistan before the team’s departure.

“Rather than being in their own rooms, which is a requirement for the first three days, there was some mingling in the hallways, chatting, sharing food and not wearing masks,” Dr Bloomfield was quoted as telling Radio New Zealand.

“I don’t know how many times they did that, but it only needs once for us to take a dim view of it. These players signed up to the arrangements in an undertaking that made what was expected of them very clear. At the moment, they are all required to be in their rooms, which was the requirement anyway. The training exemption would not have kicked in until after we had the results of the day-three testing, if we were happy with the results.”

Dr Bloomfield explained that the protocols devised for the Pakistani contingent were already lenient compared to other incoming travellers.

“Not being able to train is not a punishment, that was a requirement anyway for the first three days,” he said. “Looking at Day 3 test results and CCTV footage, we will have to take a judgment on if or when they may be allowed to be exempt from the arrangement everyone else has to undertake, so they’re allowed to break off in bubbles and train. I take a dim view of what we’ve seen already and we’ll take it really seriously.”

The health official, did, however, state that the violations were limited to within the squad and that the Pakistani touring party had not come into contact with others.

“There’s no evidence of interaction with people other than the squad, but the mingling amongst team members was not allowed, and it occurred,” he said.

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