Bismillah Khan, the Balochistan wicketkeeper-batsman, has tested positive for Covid-19 in Karachi. Bismillah had shown symptoms during the second round match against Southern Punjab in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy but wasn't tested until the fourth day, after which he was substituted on the field by Adnan Akmal. Bismillah is currently in a dedicated quarantine room in the hotel, and is being monitored by a doctor.
Bismillah's positive result had initially raised questions about the immediate fate of the tournament, as all six teams were staying at the same hotel. However, the PCB confirmed in a release that all 132 players, personnel and match officials involved in the tournament had since tested negative for the virus, and that they will be fit to take part in the third round of matches, starting November 6.
"The PCB understands domestic cricket is being played under difficult circumstances and fully appreciates the support of all involved," the board's high performance director Nadeem Khan said. "It is also appropriate that we remind all involved to religiously follow the PCB Covid-19 protocols, which will guarantee their health and safety as well as all those around them."
It is unclear as to how Bismillah might have contracted the virus. Before this round, nine Sindh players underwent Covid-19 tests after experiencing flu-like symptoms, but their results came back negative; only fast bowler Mir Hamza returned home after being declared unwell.
Professional cricket returned to Pakistan in September after a 24-week hiatus forced by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020-21 domestic season had kicked off with the National T20 Cup - played over two legs in Multan and then Rawalpindi - followed by the first-class tournament Quaid-e-Azam trophy, held fully in Karachi.
In preparation for the tournament, the PCB first ensured each team quarantined separately at a different venue before they were allowed to enter the biosecure bubble in Karachi. All teams have been undergoing regular testing throughout the tournament to ensure the bubble remains safe. The PCB has conducted a total of 1478 tests to date, including 1091 in the domestic events.
After the third round of matches, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy will be put on hold for 11 days, as Karachi will play host to four remaining matches in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The Covid-19 situation in Pakistan is nearly under control, with the country slowly returning to normalcy in recent weeks. While the government has been issuing daily alerts about a potential second wave of infections and appealing to the public to wear masks, only a few cities are observing a lockdown as restaurants, educational institutes, marriage halls and public transportation continue to operate freely.