Pakistan tour to England 'on track' despite more virus cases

The Pakistani cricket team was still confident of going to England, although seven other players tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, increasing the total number of people infected with the virus to 10.
"The tour to England is going very well and the team is scheduled to leave on June 28th," Wasim Khan, CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said in a video call.
Pakistan will leave on Sunday without the 10 players and a staff member who need to isolate themselves at home. None of them show symptoms.
The seven newly infected players were fast bowlers Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain and Imran Khan, wicket keeper Mohammad Rizwan, opening batsman Fakhar Zaman, all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez and spinner Kashif Bhatti. An employee, masseur Malang Ali, also tested positive.
From the first series of tests, players Haider Ali, Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf tested positive on Monday.
An expanded squad of 29 players was selected for the three tests and three Twenty20s, and Khan said it was fortunate that the entire test team, with the exception of Mohammad Rizwan, tested negative.
After quarantine, Rizwan should be available for the test series that the tour is scheduled to open in August.
Pakistan had four reserve players and Khan said coach Misbah-ul-Haq would have them tested this week.
Once the 10 cricketers and one employee have been tested negative, they will be flown to England on a commercial airline, Khan said.
The rest will gather in Lahore on Thursday and go through a second round of tests on Friday. Those who remain negative will fly to Manchester on a charter flight. Within 24 hours of their arrival in England, they will be tested by the medical board of the Cricket Board of England and Wales.
The Pakistani squad will be tested at least five times before the first test in early August.
Before the final positive tests were announced, English cricket director Ashley Giles said the test series against Pakistan was "far enough away" to worry, despite the situation being described as "worrying".
"This is the difference to international sport," he said in a video call. "We have to get our opposition in the country. Anything that endangers or endangers is clearly a problem."
The corona virus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world. The number of new cases in the country rose from around 2,000 to 3,000 per day in late May to up to 6,800 per day in mid-June. On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 105 new COVID-19 deaths and the total number of cases in a country of 220 million has increased to 185,034.
Pakistan has warned that cases of infection could reach an impressive 1.2 million by the end of July if Pakistanis continue to disregard even the most basic precautions, such as wearing masks.
Giles acknowledged that there is a risk that the upcoming three-game series against the West Indies, which is scheduled to take place in Southampton and Manchester in July, may be the only test cricket to be played in England this summer.
"All of this is still uncertain, even in the West Indian series, because we know how quickly this situation has moved around the world," he said.
“We were very careful with every step. Do we really know what's around the corner? No. The bubble in the Ageas Bowl (in Southampton) and in Old Trafford (in Manchester). That is why we try to create environments in which the risk is kept as low as possible. "
Dr. Sohail Saleem, director of the Pakistan Cricket Board for Medicine and Sports Science, said Monday that a tour of England is a "big risk" but necessary to help the country overcome the crisis.
Giles agreed.
"There are much more important things than sport," he said. "However, we are confident that international sport will be a real asset to many people around the world."
England's 30-person training group reported on Tuesday at the Ageas Bowl and was tested on arrival with the management team for COVID-19 as preparations for the West Indies series begin on July 8th.
The group will isolate themselves at the on-site hotel and spend most of their time in their rooms while waiting for the results. England's first day of training is on Thursday, with half of the group training in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
England said pace bowler Jofra Archer will enter the training camp on Thursday after a member of his household felt uncomfortable over the weekend. Archer and members of his household have tested COVID-19 negatively and he will be tested again.
The West Indies squad ended their 14-day isolation phase on Monday and started a three-day warm-up match in Manchester on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that cricket was banned outside the elite in England and said a cricket ball was a "natural vector of disease".
"We're still working on making cricket more COVID-proof," said Johnson, "but we can't change the guidelines yet."
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More AP cricket: https://apnews.com/Cricket and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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