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28 Nov, 2021 15:54

UK & Irish rugby teams ‘unable to leave South Africa’ over positive Omicron variant test

UK & Irish rugby teams ‘unable to leave South Africa’ over positive Omicron variant test

Two UK and Irish rugby teams trying to flee South Africa after the discovery of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 say they are unable to leave the country after reporting positive tests – at least one of which is the new variant.

Cardiff Rugby and Munster Rugby, who had been due to face South African teams, both announced on Sunday afternoon that they are remaining in isolation in the country after the discovery of the positive Covid-19 test – with the Welsh side confirming that one of their squad members has tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron variant which has led to various governments in the EU and elsewhere reintroducing strict border controls.

"Cardiff Rugby have been unable to depart South Africa following two positive cases of Covid-19, one of which is suspected to be the new variant Omicron," they said in a statement.

"The traveling party had hoped to depart Cape Town this afternoon after a charter plane was secured. However, PCR tests undertaken last night have returned two positive results.

"As a consequence of one of these results suspected of being Omicron, the entire travelling party have returned to their hotel to isolate.

"Cardiff Rugby continue to work with the South African Rugby Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and public health authorities both at home and abroad to decide the next course of action.

"The club are also continuing to work with all relevant authorities to secure the travelling party's return to Wales when safe and appropriate.

"Everybody concerned in this highly challenging situation would like to thank their families, friends, colleagues and the wider rugby family for their many messages of concern and well wishes."

News of the positive tests within the Cardiff camp were swiftly followed by a similar press release from Irish side Munster Rugby, although they did not confirm whether or not the Omicron strain had been detected in their party. 

"Munster Rugby will remain in Cape Town while we wait on next steps from the health authorities after returning one positive case in our latest testing," they announced.

"In taking all precautions and prioritizing the health and wellbeing of everyone, Munster Rugby will not travel today and will return to their hotel for an isolation period as a matter of priority."

Direct flights from South Africa to the UK ground to a halt on Friday as authorities acted quickly to inhibit the potential spread of the new strain, while both Munster and Cardiff will be obliged to undertake mandatory isolation when they eventually return to their home countries – moves which will throw several of their further fixtures into doubt.

The teams were in South Africa with the Scarlets and Zebre to play United Rugby Championship matches.