England remain hopeful January’s tour of Sri Lanka will go ahead despite the new strain of Covid-19 to hit the UK.
The Sri Lanka government has suspended commercial flights from the UK but the ECB has been given travel exemptions so Joe Root’s Test side will take a chartered plane to Sri Lanka on January 2.
Talks between the nations’ cricket boards have been positive and England – who will be tested for coronavirus before they depart and then upon arrival – expect the two-match tour to proceed as planned.
England will spend 10 days in a bio-secure bubble in Hambantota after arriving in Sri Lanka – although they will be able to train outside.
Root’s men will then face Sri Lanka in behind-closed-doors Tests in Galle, with the first from January 14 and the second from January 22.
The Sri Lanka-England series, which is part of the World Test Championship, was supposed to take place in March this year but was abandoned midway through the tourists’ warm-up game in Colombo amid the escalating situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Daminda Attanayake, the Sri Lankan team’s physician, told ESPNcricinfo: “I don’t think we should [look at the new strain as something that jeopardises the tour].
“Yes, anxiety is high at this stage from everybody. But when you look at the scientific evidence, I don’t think we should stop it. We might have to take extra precautions, but we don’t need to stop the tour.”
An England and Wales Cricket Board statement said: “Regarding the England men’s Test squad and support, they will continue to prepare as normal ahead of the Sri Lanka Test tour.
“The touring party is due to leave on 2 January 2021.
“The ECB will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in respect of international travel and working closely with Sri Lanka Cricket.”
No quarantine for players who went to South Africa
England players and staff who travelled back from South Africa on December 10 have been exempted from quarantine.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that anyone who had journeyed from South Africa in the past two weeks would have to immediately quarantine, amid the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus linked to the country.
But the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: “The team members and support staff who returned on 10 December from South Africa, as part of England men’s white-ball tour, have been following the Elite Sports International guidance concerning activity in the UK.
“During this period, they have undergone ongoing symptom and testing checks and will not need to quarantine.”