The West Indies squad has been barred from training for the rest of their managed isolation period in Christchurch after breaking protocols. This includes sharing food and socialising in hallways of their government-approved hotel.
The situation has arisen because players from the two separate bubbles of 20 people, which are allowed to train separately, have mixed. This “compromised the bubble integrity of the quarantine facility.”
Johnny Grave, the Cricket West Indies CEO, said an immediate investigation had been launched. This will be led by team manager Rawl Lewis. While more details, including CCTV footage, is awaited, Grave believes “around four or five players” were involved.
There is no indication the larger bubble to the outside world has been breached by any of the squad leaving or anyone from outside entering the facility, and no suggestion at this stage that the tour is under threat, but the New Zealand Ministry of Health has said that the players will have to spend the remainder of their 14 days – which is due to expire on Friday – in the hotel.
“We are extremely disappointed that some of the players seem to have interacted with other members of their respective bubbles,” said Grave, who was alerted to the breach in the early hours of the morning in Antigua. “We are in full sport of the action taken by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
“My disappointment is mainly that our players are probably the most experienced in the world in dealing with these strict quarantine measures. I’m not for any second saying that they are easy and living in them day-in day-out is obviously a massive challenge.
“But these players, the majority of them, have been a seven-week quarantine bubble for the England tour then all pretty much went to Trinidad for the CPL. It’s hugely disappointing that players who knew what the protocols were have clearly broken them by mixing together.
“We are surprised that the players would have let themselves down and let Cricket West Indies down and potentially put the tour and the New Zealand population at risk, albeit I would say from the information we’ve got that the risks are extremely low.”
All the Covid-19 tests from the squad before leaving the Caribbean and during their time in New Zealand have so far come back negative with the results of the final batch due on Thursday. The squad is then scheduled to leave isolation and travel to Queenstown on Friday ahead of two matches against New Zealand A.
“As with other sports teams that have come to New Zealand, the West Indies cricket team were given certain exemptions from the managed isolation rules which apply to everyone else. This included being able to be in larger bubbles and train in preparation for their international games,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at a daily briefing
“It is a privilege to come here but in return they have to stick to the rules. Keeping Covid-19 out of our communities and keeping our staff safe depends on it. They didn’t do that, despite agreeing to abide by the parameters of the exemption.
“Consequently, we have revoked the team’s exemption from those requirements of the Managed Isolation and Quarantine Order. This means members of the team will spend the remainder of their time in managed isolation and they are unable to train.”
Dr Bloomfield added there was no risk to the public. “It’s important to note that all incidents occurred within the hotel facility.”
A New Zealand Cricket statement said: “NZC was yesterday made aware that some members of the West Indies team had contravened protocols within the Managed Isolation Facility in Christchurch.
“These incidents included some players compromising bubble integrity by sharing food, and socialising in hallways. There is no evidence, or suggestion, that any members of the touring party left the facility, or that any unauthorised persons accessed it.
“NZC is supportive of the Ministry of Health and Government position. Public health and safety has always been our primary focus in hosting overseas teams and this remains our No.1 priority.
“NZC will continue working with the West Indies team and management, and relevant Government agencies, to ensure there is no repeat of these violations.”
The members of the West Indies squad who have been taking part in the IPL – plus the New Zealand players at the tournament – are due to arrive in the country on Thursday when they will begin a period of 14 days of managed isolation at the same Christchurch hotel which will end the day before the opening T20I in Auckland on November 27.
“It’s a really significant blow to our preparations,” Grave said. “I know head coach Phil Simmons is particularly disappointed that a few members of the touring have left themselves down and created a real issue for their team-mates.”
West Indies were the first team to tour when international cricket resumed amid the Covid-19 when they travelled to England for a Test series. That involved being in a biosecure bubble from start to finish as they moved between Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl.
On that tour the squad could mix together as an entire group, but were never able to leave the bubble whereas in New Zealand, under the current regulations, once the isolation is complete they become part of the general population. (ESPNCricinfo)