JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -The British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa was thrown into jeopardy on Wednesday when a member of the Lions’ tour management tested positive for COVID-19 as infections continue to spread across South African rugby.
A statement from the Lions said the individual and four close contacts – including two players and two members of staff – were being isolated and assessed at the team hotel, and that all other members of the touring party had been PCR-tested.
If they test positive, then Wednesday’s tour match against the Sharks in Johannesburg is likely to be called off.
The announcement came less than an hour after South Africa cancelled their Friday test against Georgia because of an outbreak of infections in both camps.
The Lions said their Wednesday game against the Sharks at Ellis Park would still take place provided the subsequent round of PCR testing returns negative results. Should this be the case, the kickoff time of the second tour game would be adjusted to 1800 GMT.
“We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the tour, which included regular testing and rigorous COVID-19 counter measure planning and protocols,” said Ben Calveley, managing director for the British & Irish Lions.
“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.
“Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The medical advisory group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight’s game.
“The five individuals effected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the best possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests,” he added.
The Lions have already had their third game on tour on Saturday against the Bulls in Pretoria postponed after positive COVID-19 cases were also reported in the South African Currie Cup champions’ camp.
SA Rugby cancelled the Springbok test against Georgia, set for Johannesburg, after positive cases in both camps. There are 12 players and management staff who returned positive test among the Springboks and four in Georgia’s camp.
South Africa is in the grip of a third wave of coronavirus infections despite the imposing of severe lockdown restrictions by the government.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Christian Radnedge)