Munster rugby team hit by nine more Covid cases in S.Africa

Johannesburg (AFP) – The Munster rugby team, stranded in South Africa, have discovered nine more coronavirus cases in their ranks, the Irish province said on Tuesday.

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They will join one other team member in a quarantine hotel in Cape Town until the end of their isolation period.

The Irish government had said the players or coaches that have received negative results are cleared to travel by the South African authorities.

But Munster said in a statement: "The touring party have completed another round of PCR testing this morning, the third in less than 60 hours, and will wait on results ahead of next steps...

"While the individuals (new cases) were disappointed on receiving the news they are thankfully well and will continue to be monitored medically at this time."

All members of the travelling party will be required to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in Ireland, putting in doubt their scheduled European Champions Cup opener away to Wasps on December 12.

A spokeswoman for European Professional Club Rugby, which organises that competition, said: "We are monitoring the situation and are in contact with the clubs."

Munster travelled to South Africa to play United Rugby Championship (URC) matches against the Bulls in Pretoria last Saturday and the Lions in Johannesburg this weekend.

Both matches were cancelled after the discovery of the new Omicron variant as were the fixtures that Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre Parma were due to play in South Africa.

Cardiff, whose delegation includes two positive cases, are still in Cape Town.

As the Welsh team await news of when they can fly home, the South Africa media reported that some unnamed squad members have experienced panic attacks.

Cardiff were due to leave Cape Town on Sunday but are now under strict lockdown and barred from leaving their hotel rooms.

The Welsh government has rejected a request to allow the players to quarantine in a hotel in Wales which had agreed to accommodate the Scarlets, currently in Belfast after leaving South Africa, and Cardiff simultaneously.

"Those (Covid-19) laws are things that everybody needs to abide by and there will be no exceptions to that," said Welsh health and social services minister Eluned Morgan.

"Obviously, we are interested in bringing our boys home. But they will have to come home in the same way that everybody else in this country would be expected to come home."

The URC was launched this year as a successor to the Pro14 competition and includes four teams each from Ireland, Wales and South Africa and two each from Italy and Scotland.

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