England to fly home after Covid tests confirmed as ‘false positives’


ngland have announced that the two members of their party who tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the postponement of their ODI series against South Africa in fact received false positive results.

After three attempts at playing ODIs in four days were blighted by positive tests from both teams and hotel staff inside the biosecure bubble, the series was called off yesterday.

On Sunday, England had announced that two members of their group had received “unconfirmed positive” tests and that they would be sending the results for independent verification.

The full England party will now return home on Thursday after a statement from the ECB’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Nick Peirce confirmed they are not infected.

The pair, believed to be a player and a coach, were both symptomless but self-isolated while the independent analysis was carried out. They have now joined up with the rest of the party.

Peirce said: “Following the independent ratification of the two unconfirmed positive Covid-19 tests from the England camp in South Africa, the ECB can confirm that, following further testing and analysis, in the opinion of the independent virologists based in Cape Town and London, the two individuals are not infected, and do not pose any risk of passing on the infection to the rest of the party.”

England will depart Cape Town as planned on a charter flight on Thursday morning, but will not leave the hotel before then.

( Getty Images )

Four players – Sam Billings, Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone and Lewis Gregory – will fly to Australia to play in the Big Bash, subject to Covid tests carried out today. Tom Banton and Tom Curran have pulled out of the tournament, citing bubble fatigue.

Despite the false positives, the moment that appears to have doomed the ODI series was when two staff at the Vineyard Hotel, including one working in close proximity to the England team, tested positive on Saturday. England felt the bubble had burst and feared they could be leaving even more of their party behind.

The official statement confirming the postponement said that players’ mental health was at the heart of the decision. Ashley Giles, the Director of Cricket, spoke yesterday about “anxiety and nervousness” among the party.

Exactly when it will be possible to reschedule this series remains to be seen. England’s schedule for the next 18 months is jam-packed as the pandemic collides with the Future Tour Programme. 

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