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New Covid-19 variant threatens Netherlands tour of S Africa, travel restrictions defer decision

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Johannesburg, Nov 26 (IANS) Netherlands’ ongoing ODI series in South Africa could be cancelled in light of fears over the spread of a new variant of Covid-19 in the country.

The first of the three ODIs was underway in Centurion when the two boards announced that an official decision would be taken “in the next 24 to 48 hours”.

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Initial indications were that the Dutch had decided to go home after meeting with Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Friday but it has emerged that the Netherlands team cannot get a flight out of South Africa before December 3, which prompted further discussions to continue the series.

“Both boards can confirm that following updated information, it is highly unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend,” CSA said in an official statement.

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“The KNCB [Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond] is reviewing all of its options while prioritising the physical and mental well-being of its players. A decision on the continuation of the series will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours, while all flight options are being considered,” it added.

Notably, South Africa has been added to the UK’s red list and travel restrictions from Italy, Germany, and Singapore are also in place, with other countries expected to follow.

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The Dutch players would likely have to spend time in quarantine on their return to the Netherlands. Several members of the squad play and live in the UK, whose government have banned non-residents from the region from entering the country and instituted a compulsory, self-funded hotel quarantine.

The new Covid-19 variant has been causing panic the world over and it also made its presence felt in South Africa this week. The fourth wave of the pandemic is also expected to peak in South Africa in the next few weeks and will coincide with the packed summer cricket schedule.

Meanwhile, the first ODI of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League series between South Africa and the Netherlands on Friday was called off due to bad weather.

Rain played spoilsport in Centurion after South Africa set a target of 278 for the Netherlands, and only two overs of second-innings action were possible. The Netherlands started their chase and were on 11/0 when the rain started.

–IANS

avn/bsk

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