After Rishabh Pant, four more members of the Indian contingent in England have been forced to quarantine for 10 days in London. This follows one of the support staff - training assistant/net bowler Dayanand Garani - returning a positive Covid-19 test on July 14. Apart from Garani, those in quarantine include the bowling coach B Arun, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and reserve opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, who were identified as his close contacts.
The development comes as a big setback for India's preparations for the five-Test series in England, which were already affected when Pant returned a positive test on July 8. In accordance with the protocols laid down by Public Health England, all those deemed to be in close contact with the person/s affected needed to be traced and isolated for ten days. It is believed that Arun, who is traveling with his family, Saha and Easwaran (both travelling alone), have all cleared the fresh round of tests conducted on Thursday.
A BCCI release on Thursday evening said that Pant has not been staying at the team hotel, which suggests he is unlikely to have affected any other India players, and that he is "on his way to recovery". Pant will be able to join the rest of the India squad after returning two negative RT-PCR tests.
The same rule applies for the four others who are currently in quarantine.
The BCCI release also said "to mitigate any further risks", the Indian contingent will be administered lateral flow tests every day.
It is understood that not all members of the Indian squad were aware of Pant testing positive. Even BCCI secretary Jay Shah, who sent an email to all members of the Indian contingent on July 13 asking them to exercise all possible Covid-19 precautions, did not mention Pant's positive result in that note, seen by ESPNcricinfo. In it, Shah stressed that while the Indian contingent had received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine recently, that did not "guarantee total immunity or resistance against the dreaded virus".
While the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the United Kingdom would be rolling back most of its Covid-19 restrictions from July 19, he cautioned that the Delta variant, which originated from India, was transmitting fast and accounts for virtually all the cases recently in the country.
Shah too pointed to how the new Covid-19 variant had been "spreading rapidly", and "we are not out of danger zone" yet. Citing the two bilateral series that were affected recently - the England vs Pakistan series and the Sri Lanka vs India series - because of the rising numbers, Shah wrote, "It is advisable the places of mass congregation, crowded shopping malls/stores and eateries and watering holes be avoided by you in the best interest of everyone."
On Thursday, the Indian contingent, which had dispersed the day after the World Test Championship final defeat to New Zealand, reassembled in London to travel to Durham, where it will spend the next two weeks getting ready for the first of five Tests, which starts at Trent Bridge on August 4. The Indians are scheduled to play a three-day tour game from July 20 at Chester-le-Street against a select county team. That match, Durham said on Wednesday in an official statement, would be "strictly" behind closed doors.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo