England’s cricket team will refrain from taking selfies with fans and limit public engagements on their tour of Sri Lanka amid the global Coronavirus outbreak.
The team also asked “all supporters joining the tour to maintain good levels of hygiene” as advised by the World Health Organisation Britain’s National Health Service to avoid possible infection and spreading of illness in a statement released by the ECB on Wednesday.
“Following the world health agency’s advice, and in order to protect the players and, in turn, the integrity and continuation of the Sri Lanka Test tour, the team has put in place several precautions, leading to a number of normal activities being cancelled for the foreseeable future,” the statement said.
“England players and staff have been asked to avoid any unnecessary public engagements, and temporarily avoid casual supporter interaction such as selfies or autographs.
“Whilst we acknowledge that this will be disappointing for some supporters, we stress that this a measure to protect the ongoing wellbeing of the England Test squad and is a decision which has not been taken lightly.”
England players and staff will continue to replace handshakes with fist bumps in an attempt to minimise contact.
The ECB is expecting a large number of supporters to travel from the UK to Sri Lanka for the two-Test series starting in Galle on March 19 and urged them to follow public health guidelines to avoid the risk of infection and spreading the virus. These measures include washing hands with soap and water often and for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available and coughing and sneezing into a tissue which should be thrown in the bin immediately before washing hands.
Fans travelling to Sri Lanka from the UK have also been urged to heed the suspension of visas on arrival in Colombo, and should instead secure them on-line before departure.
English county clubs Worcestershire and Surrey have cancelled their planned pre-season tours of Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively after conducting their own assessment of the risks associated with Coronavirus. However, the England team will continue to take guidance from the ECB, Sri Lankan authorities, UK Government agencies and the World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile, England have named their team for their final warm-up, a four-day fixture against a Sri Lanka Cricket Board President’s XI in Colombo, from Thursday.
Notably it includes Jack Leach, who was rested from England’s opening warm-up last week as he continues his recovery from the illnesses that plagued his tours of New Zealand and South Africa. With Stuart Broad and Matt Parkinson both sitting out, the XI could well prove to be the side that takes the field in next week’s first Test.
England team v SLBP XI 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Joe Denly, 4 Joe Root, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Ollie Pope, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Sam Curran, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 Dom Bess, 11 Jack Leach.