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Relief for Lions as player who tested positive is now a negative

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Saturday’s new Lions fixture seemingly hinges on whether the unnamed player who tested positive on Wednesday and has since tested negative on Thursday tests negative again on Friday so that all his six close contacts can be released from isolation and become available for selection for a match hastily arranged against the Sharks due to the unavailability of the Covid-hit Bulls. 


The Lions confirmed on Tuesday that their Bulls match in Pretoria had fallen by the wayside and after eventually managing to play their match versus the Sharks on Wednesday despite an outbreak within their own camp, the Sharks have been lined up again to provide the opposition next Saturday due to the Bulls pull-out.   

Warren Gatland was forced into making eight changes to his originally selected matchday 23 shortly before kick-off on Wednesday, even selecting a seven/one forwards/backs split on the bench, and team selection to face the Sharks in their fixture is on hold until there is clarification whether the player who initially tested positive and then tested negative and his six self-isolating player close contacts are available. 

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RugbyPass Fanzone on whether the Lions tour will be cancelled
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RugbyPass Fanzone on whether the Lions tour will be cancelled

It has also yet to be decided when the two other Lions players identified as close contacts of the staff member who has tested positive for Covid can come out of isolation. Lions managing director Ben Calveley explained: “Yesterday morning [Wednesday] we had one member of the management team test Covid positive. He had four close contacts, two of whom were players and two were staff, so we immediately isolated that group. They went into self-isolation. 

“We then surge tested the whole of the rest of the tour part, both lateral flow and PCR tests. All of those tests came back negative apart from one player who returned what is called the single gene positive, which in other words is a very low level positive. But just out of caution we then isolated that player and all of his close contacts and we were then advised by our medical advisory committee that we had to test that individual again today which we have now done. 

“Thankfully that test came back negative. He has to test again tomorrow [Friday] and if that also comes back negative then he and all of his close contacts will be released back into the bubble and then they will be available for selection for the game that we have announced for Saturday against the Sharks.”


What about the close contacts of the Covid-positive Lions staff member? “The member of management tested positive, that is a genuine positive and the close contacts associated with that person are isolated… they stay in isolation according to the recommendation of our medical advisory group and we have meetings with them coming up to just determine that [for how long].”

Calveley insisted the tour would remain in South Africa, that the Lions and the Springboks won’t be jumping on a plane to play their games in the UK or anywhere else, but he admitted there were discussions ongoing about potentially staging the second and third Tests in Cape Town rather than returning to the Gauteng region as currently planned.  

“We are in a biosecure bubble here so we are protected as much as we can be. There is nobody coming in and out of our facility. We have the players, we have the management team, we have the hotel staff but everybody here lives in the bubble, nobody comes and goes so the hotel staff don’t go home in the evening for example and then reintegrate the next day. 

“They live on-site here as well and there are very few hotel staff, so actually our bubble is as secure as it can be and what you don’t want to do is bring risk into the camp by having more time spent travelling around the country. The more times you travel the more opportunity there is for Covid to be introduced into the camp via somebody who is outside of that environment.” 


Calveley admitted in a live TV interview before Wednesday’s game that not everyone in the Lions tour party had been double-jabbed, generated concern that this lack of full immunisation could leave them vulnerable to further outbreaks, but the managing director refused to view the lack of complete double-jabbing as an issue.  

“Everybody has a right to make their own decision on whether they want to be vaccinated. We have a number of strategies in place to mitigate the risk in any environment and it’s wrong for anybody to think that vaccination is some sort of universal panacea. 

“I am afraid it is not so we have an approach where it is multi-layered where, as well as having the majority of the party being vaccinated, we are also exhibiting all the right behaviours that I have spoken about before. 

“We are getting tested three times a week if not more, we’re socially distancing, we’re well ventilated, we’re observing hand hygiene, we are wearing masks, we are not integrating with the public and we are travelling very, very infrequently so we have got a pretty robust set of protocols in place that will keep is as safe as we possibly can.

“I don’t think we are going to get into a conversation about who is and isn’t vaccinated. I’d just make the point again that the very high majority of the party are double-jabbed… We just see that as one strand of a very robust Covid mitigation strategy that involves all the other areas that I talked about previously.”



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