Thailand Open: After drama, Covid+ Saina, Kashyap, Prannoy to play (4th lead)

Bangkok, Jan 12 (IANS) In a dramatic chain of events on Tuesday, ace Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, and HS Prannoy were cleared to compete in the Thailand Open Super 1000 badminton tournament, just hours after they were forced to withdraw having tested positive for Coronavirus.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced later on Tuesday that Saina and Prannoy could compete, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) said that “Kashyap’s participation will depend on result of his test”, conducted on Tuesday afternoon.

Apart from the Indian trio, Germany’s Jones Ralfy Jansen and Egypt’s Adham Hatem Elgamal had also tested positive after the Monday tests. While Jansen’s decision too has been reversed and he can now compete, Elgamal has been forced to withdraw as his antibody test was negative, said BWF.

All three players will play their rescheduled first-round match on Wednesday.

“Nehwal, Prannoy and Jansen tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG was positive. A positive antibody test means a person has been infected with the Covid-19 virus at some point in the past. It does not mean they are currently infected. The trio all contracted Covid-19 in late 2020. The committee was satisfied that they are not infected and do not pose a danger to the tournament,” said the BWF statement.

Saina and Prannoy had earlier been forced to withdraw from the tournament after they tested positive for Covid-19 tests that were conducted on Monday. Kashyap, husband of Saina, also had to withdraw as he was sharing a room with Saina and was asked to self-quarantine.

Hours after making the announcement of the three players having to withdraw on Tuesday, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said that Sain and Prannoy had been tested a second time and produced positive results. However, a working group of six doctors that has been formed for the tournament by the Thailand government had determined that the pair were not currently “not infected and do not pose a danger to the tournament”.

Prannoy is set to face Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia on Tuesday while Kashyap faces Canada’s Jason Anthony Shue. Saina faces Kisona Selvudoray of Malaysia in her first round fixture. Saina and Kashyap’s matches were initially scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

BAI said that it had taken the matter up with the “topmost BWF officials to ensure that if tests are negative, matches for respective players should be rescheduled and no walkover is given”.

After testing positive, both Saina and Prannoy were taken to the hospital to be isolated for a minimum of 10 days. Kashyap was asked to quarantine in his hotel room due to close proximity with wife Saina.

However, Saina had earlier claimed she hadn’t received her Covid-19 test reports and it was only before the warm up for her Tuesday’s match authorities told her that she had tested positive for coronavirus.

Saina reacted by tweeting: “I still didn’t receive the Covid test report from yesterday it’s very confusing and today just before the warm up for the match they tell me to get to hospital in Bangkok…saying that I m positive according to rules the report should come in four hours.”

Saina was slated to take on Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia in her opening round contest on Tuesday.

Prannoy, on the other hand, was to take on Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia while Kashyap was to take on Jason Anthony Ho-Shue of Canada in their respective opening round contests.

While the trio initially withdrew, the rest of the Indian team players were allowed to compete in the event.

Saina had recently raised concerns over the fitness of the athletes after physios and trainers were restricted from meeting the badminton players during the entire Thailand tour. The Covid-related rules have been put in place by the BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) stated that it was only for the first three days that players could not meet their support staff, until the start of the training period.

Saina, Prannoy, Kashyap, along with RMV Guru Sai Dutt and Pranaav Jerry Chopra, had tested positive last month and had served the mandatory quarantine period.

Saina last competed in the All England Open in March last year and Tuesday’s game was supposed to be her first since the outbreak of coronavirus in early last year.

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