New Variation Hits Sports Just As They Approach Normalization
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) – Golf, cricket and rugby became the first major sports to be affected by the new variant of COVID-19 on Friday, raising fears of new travel restrictions and disrupted events at the time even where they were returning to normal almost two years after the pandemic.
European golfers withdrew midway through the season opener DP World Tour in Johannesburg and made an effort to catch flights from South Africa. The visiting cricket and rugby teams did the same.
Golf was the first to be affected by the emergence of the new B.1.1.529 variant which was originally identified in South Africa and raises concerns over fears that it may be more transmissible than current variants and resistant to vaccines.
It has already been detected in Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium as well as in several other countries in southern Africa.
As the start of the World Tour was ruined, South Africa rugby matches in a new Euro-South African tournament were postponed “due to sudden developments,” organizers said. A tour of India’s cricket team’s South Africa next month was likely to be reconsidered, although there has been no official comment yet.
The Dutch cricket team, already in South Africa for a series, were considering canceling their remaining matches and heading home earlier. The Royal Netherlands Cricket Federation said it was exploring options but it was “unlikely” to be able to find flights in the short term.
“The physical and mental health of the players is the first priority,” said the federation.
Organizers of the Johannesburg Open golf course, which kicked off Thursday, said it would continue even after at least 23 players, mostly Europeans, withdrew within hours of the announcement of the South African health authorities. they had detected the new variant. The tournament was then reduced to a 54-hole, three-round event ending on Saturday “to help non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries,” said organizers.
The Johannesburg Open was to be the first of three events held in South Africa to kick off the new season on the circuit formerly known as the European Tour. But next week’s South Africa Open will now be just an event of the South African tour with international players likely to return home to defeat travel restrictions. The Alfred Dunhill Championship scheduled for December 9-12 has been canceled.
Many of the players who withdrew from the Johannesburg Open were from Britain or Ireland and reacted to the UK government’s announcement to reimpose a ban on visitors from South Africa and five others. southern African country from 4 a.m. on Sunday. Returning residents would have mandatory 10-day quarantine periods at designated hotels.
The European Union and the United States later said they would also stop air travel from the southern African region as countries around the world began to put new travel restrictions in place.
Irish golfer Paul Dunne, one of those who retired, told RTE Radio that he had managed to secure a return flight via Dubai and that the only ones now available were through Ethiopia, where a conflict of one year now threatens to reach the capital, Addis Ababa.
“Nobody wants to travel this way either,” Dunne said. “A bit of a minefield per minute.”
Not all were leaving. Scottish golfer David Drysdale has said he has decided to continue playing at the Johannesburg Open and then stay in South Africa with his wife, who is also his youngest, and make it on vacation.
“Most of the UK players have all decided to go home and it’s totally understandable if you have a wife and kids at home,” Drysdale told The Scotsman newspaper. “There was no (plane) seat to have when we found out what had happened. A lot of guys were panicking, but we were like ‘what’s the point? “
“We are staying with a companion in Joburg and our plan is to stay until Christmas and then return home. Hopefully this variant isn’t as bad as they fear … it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we’ve heard about it.
Four rugby teams – two from Wales, one from Ireland and one from Italy – were also trying to return from South Africa before they even got a chance to play after their matches were postponed by United Rugby Championship.
“As the situation in South Africa has changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff as soon as possible,” Welsh club Cardiff said.
There would also be repercussions for other events in other countries, such as the Women’s Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, another southern African country on new travel bans. Nine national teams, including the United States, are participating in the tournament, which runs until December 5.
The Africa Cup of Nations, Africa’s first football tournament, is just over a month away and looming as a possible problem after already being postponed for a year due to the pandemic.
The 24-team tournament will be played in Cameroon and only two southern African countries, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have qualified. But the Africa Cup would be hit hard if European countries extend travel restrictions across Africa.
The best European football teams, and in particular those in the Premier League, have previously blocked their African players from traveling and playing for their country. because of the risks and the quarantine periods imposed on them upon their return.
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