SINGAPORE: Three of the four badminton players who had tested positive for COVID-19 have been cleared to return to competition at the Thailand Open, said the Badminton World Federation (BWF) in a press release on Tuesday (Jan 12).
The players - India's Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy as well as Germany's Jones Ralfy Jansen, had initially tested positive for COVID-19 during the third round of mandatory testing for the players on Monday, the sport's governing body had said. BWF was informed on Tuesday morning, hours before the start of the tournament.
Nehwal’s husband Kashyap Parupalli was also initially asked to self-quarantine due to the couple sharing a room.
Upon retesting the same specimens on Tuesday, Prannoy, Jansen and Egypt's Adham Hatem Elgamal were found to be negative, while Nehwal was found to be positive.
The four players then underwent a second PCR test and an antibody blood test for further confirmation.
Following the test results and a decision from the diagnosis and investigation committee of the Thailand ministry of public health, Nehwal, Prannoy and Jansen were cleared to return.
"Nehwal, Prannoy and Jansen tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG (Immunoglobulin G) was positive. A positive antibody test means a person has been infected with the COVID-19 virus at some point in the past," said the BWF.
"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."
On the other hand, Elgamal, who had not contracted COVID-19, tested positive on the PCR test but his antibody IgG was negative, which indicated he has no antibodies for the virus, said BWF. The committee hence advised for the Egyptian to be withdrawn.
"Elgamal, a mixed doubles player, will now be taken to hospital for further observation and tests and will remain in isolation for a minimum 10 days at the hospital," said BWF.
Nehwal and Parupalli’s singles matches – declared a walkover earlier today – will be rescheduled for tomorrow.
The Yonex Thailand Open as well as the Toyota Thailand Open, which is slated to be held next week, have already been hit by a series of high-profile withdrawals.
The Japanese team have withdrawn following world No 1 Kento Momota testing positive for COVID-19, while the Chinese team also did not travel to Bangkok.
"BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) will continue to follow all protocols outlined by the local health authorities to ensure the safety of all other participants, with stringent contact tracing measures activated," said BWF.
Singapore has four badminton players in action at the tournament, which is being played in a "bubble" behind closed doors.
Earlier on Tuesday, Singapore's top male shuttler Loh Kean Yew fell to tournament sixth seed Jonatan Christie 21-13, 10-21, 16-21 in the first round. Loh is ranked 38th in the world, while Indonesia's Christie is seventh.
Later in the day, the women's doubles pair of Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong were edged out 21-12,15-21,18-21 by Laksika Kanlaha and Atitaya Povanon in the women's doubles.
Singapore's top female player Yeo Jia Min will face Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon on Wednesday.
In response to queries from CNA, the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) said it had put in place additional safety measures for local athletes from the beginning of the event.
"The BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand have implemented a set of rigorous safety and testing protocols for the tournament. We note that the positive cases in a few athletes from other countries were discovered through scheduled tests from the safety protocols," said the statement from SBA.
"So far, all our Team Singapore athletes have tested negative. We have also put in place additional safety measures for our athletes, right from the start of the tournament. For example, all our athletes are required to stay within our own 'Singapore bubble' at all times except when they are playing in the tournament matches. This helps to further minimise interactions with individuals from other countries."