The West Indies arrived in the UK on Tuesday morning for their upcoming Test series against England in a strict ‘bio-bubble’. ANDRE HUISAMEN unpacks the details.
A bio-bubble is a strictly controlled bio-secure environment where players, management and staff are regularly monitored for infection with Covid-19.
Cricket South Africa team doctor Shuaib Manjra explained last month that ultimately the bubble is a ‘sanitised cricket biosphere with strict entry standards and limited movement outside of its cordon’.
Prior to departure: Everyone involved with the West Indies group that departed for Manchester on Monday evening underwent coronavirus testing in Antigua before they left. In the days prior to their departure, their movement was already limited to ensure they travel to the UK without any symptoms.
Travel: The West Indies squad flew to Manchester on a privately chartered plane, with no interaction with any member of the public, while they had to adhere to strict protocols upon the flight that departed the Caribbean. Similarly, they arrived in the UK on Tuesday morning as an isolated unit and made their way by bus to the Old Trafford training facility in Manchester – again without any exposure to the British public.
Jason Holder and his West Indies side have arrived in England for their three-Test series behind closed doors (Credit @ECB_cricket)
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Location: For the next three weeks, the whole West Indies group will reside at this Manchester facility to prepare for the first Test against England on 8 July. It is a venue completely sealed off from the rest of the public where every player and member of staff will quarantine and reside. It houses an on-site hotel, a gym and other training facilities, as well as the playing ground – all in one area.
The purpose of this facility is to restrict further coronavirus spreading, with everyone to be tested before entry. Every person’s movement is controlled at the facility to monitor and manage a safe environment.
Regular testing and quarantine zones: The regular testing of players and staff will add to the monitoring of this environment as an infected person could possibly jeopardise the whole series and tour. Should a person display any symptoms of the coronavirus or indeed test positive for it, he/she will then immediately be removed from the group and placed in a quarantine zone with further strict medical procedures following.
Matches: Ultimately, no fans will be allowed to attend matches over the course of the three Tests. The first encounter will be played at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, where the West Indies will move to and stay in the same bio-bubble before returning to Manchester for the next two Test matches at Old Trafford.
Every person involved with the operation of these cricket matches will follow similar protocols and guidelines, mainly to ensure the matches take place without any casualties. These include the use of local umpires, commentators, groundsmen, security and, of course, the players.
In the end, the focus is on the visiting team due to the huge risk involved with travelling abroad. This is why the West Indies group arrived a month in advance so that these regulations become the new normal for cricket. It gives the ICC, and the English Cricket Board, the responsibility to make 100% sure that the matches will be conducted in a safe space.