Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
NINE members of the Bulawayo City FC team checked into Ekusileni Hospital on Tuesday afternoon after testing positive for Covid-19, while three out of four Bulawayo-based PSL teams were forced to suspend training as a precautionary measure.
Eight players (names withheld) and a member of the technical staff presented Covid-19 symptoms on Tuesday when they arrived for training, prompting the club’s Covid-19 compliance officer to test them and book them into the quarantine facility.
The cancellation of training by Bulawayo City, Chicken Inn and Highlanders was reportedly a precautionary measure after a number of players presented symptoms of Covid-19.
Only Bulawayo Chiefs held normal uninterrupted training sessions.
All members of the City squad that tested positive for Covid-19 were part of the squad that went into camp on Friday night ahead of their Castle Lager Premiership clash against Manica Diamonds at Barbourfields Stadium which they lost 2-1, leaving them at the bottom of the league table after two rounds of matches.
Sources said they suspect the nine contracted the virus at the camping site, a busy lodge located in Khumalo suburb in the city.
“Nine out of the 13 people who were tested after presenting Covid-19 symptoms returned positive results. An ambulance was called to take the infected to quarantine at Ekusileni Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. Our suspicions are that since these team members had tested negative when we went for the match against Manica Diamonds, they picked up the virus at the camping lodge.
That place was a hive of activity that night, leaving us wondering if they fumigate their rooms and facilities after guests leave. We think that place exposed our team to Covid-19,” said the source.
Another source said after the nine tested positive, information was relayed to the City Health department, which then dispatched a team to test the whole squad yesterday.
City spokesperson Thandiwe Moyo professed ignorance about the Covid-19 positive tests and quarantine of nine club personnel.
“If there was any member of Bulawayo City FC who tested positive, I would know. That information on players testing positive is untrue,” said Moyo.
News that Covid-19 hit City triggered panic in the Highlanders and Chicken Inn camps and they conducted tests on their squads.
A source at Chicken Inn said the club suspended training and will resume on Monday.
Highlanders called off training yesterday after some players presented symptoms and went for tests.
Bosso were last week forced to change their approach to the league match against Ngezi after three players, a midfielder and two strikers, tested positive for Covid-19.
The PSL confirmed that some clubs had been hit by Covid-19 without naming them.
“The Premier Soccer League has received reports of a number of positive Covid-19 cases among PSL clubs. Please be advised that we are working with club doctors and the PSL Sports Medicine Committee and other relevant stakeholders to assist the affected and contain the spread of the virus.
“We advise our clubs and stakeholders to strictly follow the Covid-19 protocols and match operating procedures,” said the PSL in a statement.
Should Covid-19 cases continue to escalate, football activities could be threatened, as authorities might halt sport gatherings to help curb the spread.
The PSL might also be forced to cancel matches of teams that might have a lot of players with Covid-19 positive tests, as the players will be forced to self-isolate for 10 days.
To its credit, the PSL has ensured that clubs stick to strict Covid-19 preventive measures and protocols that are in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) and local health authorities.
In addition to masking up, the preventive measures include practicing safe hygiene, regular testing of players and officials as well as disinfecting training facilities and team buses. Players and officials also have temperature checks before every training session.
And no PSL team trains without Covid-19 compliance officers.
Clubs’ compliance officers are the ones that picked up Covid-19 symptoms among players and staff at the three Bulawayo clubs which suspended training. — @ZililoR