27 Nov 2020

Covid-19: Pakistan cricket team day 3 testing may uncover more positives - Bloomfield

11:21 am on 27 November 2020

Health authorities will know today if more players in the touring Pakistan cricket team test positive for Covid-19.

Chateau on the Park Hotel in Christchurch is one of the isolation facilities.

The Pakistan cricket squad are spending their fourth day in isolation at the Chateau on the Park hotel in Christchurch Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Six of the 53-member squad have tested positive for Covid-19, despite producing negative tests before flying to New Zealand.

The positive cases have been moved to separate quarantine rooms.

The Ministry of Health has also given the entire team a final warning, after players were caught on CCTV breaching isolation conditions on the first day of their isolation.

The squad who arrived on Tuesday and now spending their fourth day in isolation at the Chateau on the Park hotel in Christchurch, and none of them are now being given an exemption to leave the facility to train.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the entire squad was tested for Covid-19 when they arrived in the country and that is where the six positive tests were uncovered.

"At least four of those are acute infections and the others may be historical ones, but that's being confirmed."

He said the day three testing for the squad was done yesterday and the results will be available today.

"The fact that these infections were found when they were tested on arrival in the country suggests that there may well be others that we uncover during that day three testing."

Bloomfield said the CCTV footage showed the players had not been abiding by the rules that they signed up to.

"Rather than being in their own rooms which is the requirement for the first three days until that first test comes back, there was some mingling in the hallways, chatting, sharing food and not wearing masks which was obvious on the CCTV footage."

Bloomfield said he did not know how many times this happened, but it only takes once for Covid to spread.

Now they have to stay in their rooms, which was the requirement anyway since the training exemption would only have applied if health officials were happy after the day three testing, he said.

But Bloomfield said there is no evidence of any interaction with people outside of the squad.

"This was simply members of the squad mingling in the hallways outside their rooms which was not something that was allowed to happen and not something that's at all acceptable."

He said pre-testing people before they get on the plane identifies anyone with Covid-19 at that point, who would then not be allowed to travel.

"But what it doesn't do is rule out that people may still get infected after the last test but before they board the plane, nor that they may well have the infection incubating."

NZ border control system needs major overhaul - Wilson

Professor Nick Wilson, who is a public health expert from the University of Otago, said it is another sign New Zealand's border controls system is not working adequately.

The Pakistani cricket incident is in addition to the eight border control failures there have been since August, he said.

He said the system needs an overhaul and a much smarter system at the border is needed.

"What we probably need is a traffic light system so that things are much much more stringent for people coming from high risk red zone countries like Pakistan, the US, the UK but actually make it easier from people from green zone countries like the Pacific and Australia where you might just need testing and some home quarantine."

Wilson said that would help in bringing seasonal workers at the Pacific.

He said the current system has design defects and situations such as with the Pakistani cricket squad should not be allowed to occur.

"With these high red zone returnees and visitors the doors actually need to be locked, they just don't have these choices to mingle.

"If the situation in these high risk countries is just so serious we've probably got to think about stopping people coming from them until they get their pandemic situation better under control."

Wilson said the situation with the cricketers is a high risk situation which could have been easily prevented.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs