West Indies coach Phil Simmons has apologised to New Zealand health officials after several of his players breached Covid-19 safety protocols. He added today that his team would be scrambling to get up to speed having had their training privileges revoked.
The West Indies team had been allowed to train in small groups while undergoing a mandatory 14-day isolation, but the Ministry of Health rescinded that privilege on Wednesday after they discovered players had shared food and socialized outside their rooms.
Members of the team had reportedly breached the protocols on more than one occasion, even after being spoken to by staff at the Christchurch facility where they are being housed.
“I have to apologise to the New Zealand public and the government who have allowed us to come here,” Simmons told Newshub. “It’s embarrassing from our point of view.”
Simmons added the players would be subject to internal sanctions.
The breach of the protocols has infuriated the New Zealand public and in The AM Show’s ‘Question of the Day’ which asked if the team should be sent home, 70 percent of the 2000 votes said yes.
But Simmons noted that such punishment would be “extreme” and insisted the players who were at fault would be punished accordingly by Cricket West Indies.
Speaking to The AM Show, Simmons stressed they would be more careful in the future.
“The important thing here is that all New Zealanders are safe and it’s a priority for us to keep safe.
“If we felt that the players did something extreme – like trying to go over the fence – they would be on their way home. We’re about to finish our investigation into it and punish the players who broke the rules,” Simmons said.
New Zealand has successfully curbed the spread of the coronavirus after introducing a strict lockdown and tight border controls.
Almost all the country’s small number of current cases is among people arriving from overseas, who are held in mandatory managed isolation facilities for 14 days.
West Indies have lost a total of four days training because of the breaches. They have two warm-up games in Queenstown from November 20 and Simmons said they might be a little slow to get their conditioning and match fitness back.
“We were just getting to the levels that we would normally start at, but coming from no cricket, we had to start slower,” he said. “Hopefully everybody tests negative and then we can move to Queenstown and ramp it up as quickly as possible because later in the week we have a training game.”
However, any fears that Simmons might have had were allayed when New Zealand Cricket (NZC), the governing body for the sport in the country, said in a media release today that the third and final round of COVID-19 tests, which the players took had all returned negative for the virus.
This will come as a great relief to the players and support staff because it will allow them greater freedom of movement to train and prepare for their series of three Twenty20 Internationals and two Tests against the Black Caps, and the ability to freely leave the isolation facility and mix with the general population.
There was no indication that any of the members of the squad left or had contact with anyone outside of the managed isolation facility in which they had been confined since arriving in the country almost two weeks ago.
New Zealand health officials had given the Windies team certain exemptions from the strict rules of managed isolation in place in the country.
The players and support staff are scheduled to leave the managed isolation facility tomorrow and travel to the southern island city of Queenstown, where they will play a three-day match and a four-day match against New Zealand “A” at John Davies Oval.
Nine other Windies players that took part in the Indian Premier League, including Test captain Jason Holder and Twenty20 International captain Kieron Pollard, arrived in Auckland yesterday from Dubai.
NZC said they had all passed initial health checks and processing and were cleared to board a charter flight to Christchurch ahead of beginning a 14-day period of managed isolation.
The nine players will end their period of managed isolation one day before the Windies meet the Black Caps in the first T20I on November 27 at Eden Park in Auckland. The two-Test series starts on December 3. (WG/CMC)