CRICKET NEWS - Two members of England cricket's touring party in South Africa have returned unconfirmed positive tests for Covid-19, forcing Sunday's first one-day international to be cancelled and placing the rest of the tour in jeopardy.
The match in Paarl was to have opened the one-day series after Friday's scheduled first match in Cape Town was scrapped just before play was to begin after a South African player tested positive for coronavirus.
Cricket South Africa and the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a joint statement that two members of England's touring party had now contracted the virus, although further tests were required.
The statement did not specify whether the individuals affected were players or support staff.
"Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have agreed to cancel today’s Betway One-Day International series opening match, which was due to take place in Paarl," the governing bodies said.
A decision on the remaining two matches in the series will be taken after the test results are ratified independently by medical experts, the statement added.
Ashley Giles, the managing director of England Men's Cricket, said: "We regret that we are unable to play in today’s ODI, but the welfare of the players and support staff is our primary concern and whilst we await the results of further tests the medical advice from both teams was that this game should not take place.
"We remain in constant dialogue with Cricket South Africa and will continue to work closely with them to determine how best to move forward."
CSA said the England players and management underwent an additional round of tests on Saturday evening after two members of staff at their hotel tested positive for the virus.
Former England captain Mike Atherton, now a commentator and journalist, said he feared the entire series could be under threat.
Atherton said the new positive cases had "ramped up" the concern that the England camp already felt after the opening match was postponed.
"Certainly this match is off and I would be pessimistic about the other games," said Atherton.
Three Twenty20 internationals were played before the latest scare.
The second and third one-day internationals are scheduled to be played at Newlands in Cape Town on Monday and Wednesday.
Sunday's opener was cancelled after it was initially announced that the start at Boland Park in Paarl would be delayed while the England party awaited the test results.
But soon after television coverage began, commentator Mark Nicholas said he had received news that the match was off.
Graeme Smith, CSA's director of cricket, said he was "deeply regretful" that the match could not go ahead "given the amount of time and energy that has been put in place to host a successful tour".
Both teams are staying in what was labelled a "bio-secure environment" in a Cape Town hotel.
After the South African player tested positive, South African team doctor Shuaib Manjra said he was concerned about a possible breach of the bio-secure bubble.
Both teams checked in to the hotel on November 18. Two South African players were placed in quarantine after early rounds of Covid tests but reportedly were cleared to play after being kept isolated from their team-mates.
Dr Manjra said he was surprised by the positive test which caused Friday’s postponement because he had confidence in the bio-secure environment.
All the South African players and staff were re-tested on Friday evening and having analysed the results, CSA had given the go-ahead for the games to go ahead.
The general manager of the hotel confirmed that two staff members had tested positive.
"At this stage it is not clear how the staff members became infected as neither have left the bio-secure area since November 16 and they do not work on the same team or in the same area," the manager, Roy Davies, said.