European rugby teams stuck in SA after positive COVID tests


Welsh side Cardiff remain unable to leave South Africa as planned on Sunday after they returned positive COVID-19 cases, although the majority of Irish side Munster squad have been cleared to return to home, it has been announced.

Cardiff said they have two positive cases, one suspected to be the new Omicron variant, while Munster have one case so far, but did not say whether the positive test was the new variant.

Both teams have been isolating in their Cape Town hotels, having hoped to leave South Africa on a charter flight on Sunday, along with Welsh side Scarlets, who have travelled back to the United Kingdom.

However, Ireland’s sports minister Jack Chambers said on Monday that Munster have been clearer to return home with two members — a positive COVID-19 case and a close contact — set to remain in South Africa.

“The rest of the team, there are about 48 people involved, they are now being authorised to travel and work is ongoing to find a route home for those who have tested negative,” Chambers told Irish broadcaster RTE.

Meanwhile, the Cardiff squad remains in South Africa as they continue to work toward returning to Wales.

“The club are continuing to work with all relevant authorities to secure the travelling party’s return to Wales when safe and appropriate,” Cardiff said in a statement.

Munster, Scarlets, Cardiff and Italian side Zebre were in South Africa for matches in the United Rugby Championship when authorities raised the alarm about the Omicron variant’s discovery.

The teams will have to isolate for 10 days on their eventual return home, which will have a potentially massive impact on their future fixtures.

Munster are due to play Wasps (Dec. 12) and Castres (Dec. 18) in the European Rugby Champions Cup, matches which could now be under threat depending on how long they remain in Cape Town.

Any hotel quarantine in the United Kingdom for Cardiff, which will be the case if the current rules are applied, will leave them unable to train on the pitch for 10 days and throw preparations for their European Rugby games on Dec. 11 and beyond into doubt.

Travellers from southern Africa arriving in Britain and European countries face onerous quarantine restrictions as part of steps to negate the spread of the Omicron variant, which was detected by South African scientists this week.

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