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Women’s World Cup Qualifier under threat

Ireland are scheduled to face Sri Lanka in the World Cup Qualifier in Harare on Monday

Ireland are waiting to see if the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe is going to continue following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant in southern Africa.

Ireland have played two games in the competition and are scheduled to face Sri Lanka on Monday.

The UK government has added six southern African countries – including Zimbabwe – to its travel red list.

United Rugby Championship games in South Africa this weekend are off.

These include Munster’s contest against the Bulls in Pretoria which was scheduled for Saturday.

Cricket Ireland said on Friday morning that it had been “actively monitoring and engaging in discussions with the International Cricket Council and government about the reported new Covid variant in southern Africa”.

“We have been in close contact with the ICC, the Irish government and sports bodies in both jurisdictions to better understand the facts, and to properly inform and reassure the squad leadership,” said Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom.

“Our decision-making will be first-and-foremost based on the health and safety of players and support staff.”

BBC Sport Northern Ireland understands that with no flights available seemingly from Harare on Friday and Saturday, Sunday is the earliest that the Ireland squad would be able to leave the country.

In a further twist, Ireland’s scheduled opponents on Monday Sri Lanka have reported three cases of Covid-19 in their 16-player squad.

In addition to Munster’s game in Pretoria, Welsh teams Cardiff and Scarlets were scheduled to face the Lions and Sharks over the weekend in Johannesburg and Durban but instead had to attempt to arrange transport home with the UK government’s rules stipulating that anyone arriving from the six countries after 04:00 GMT on Sunday must quarantine in an hotel.

In addition, those returning before that would be asked to isolate at home for 10 days.

European Union Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also said on Friday morning that the commission was set to propose stopping air travel from the southern African region amid the rising concern over the new Covid-19 variant.

A number of British and Irish golfers – including Northern Irish pair Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin – also pulled out of the opening event of the DP World Tour in Johannesburg following the UK government’s announcement of the new travel rules concerning South Africa.

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