COVID-19 pandemic breached the BWF India Open Super 5000 series biosecurity ring, further weakening the already depleted field.
Badminton lovers in India woke up to the shock on Thursday morning as the world governing body for sport issued a communiqué that seven players have tested positive for COVID-19 infection at the India Open, being played in New Delhi.
Shortly afterwards, tournament organisers Badminton Association of India confirmed that men’s singles top seed Kidambi Srikanth and veteran doubles player Ashwini Ponappa are among the seven infected.
Ritika Rahul Thakur, Treesa Jolly, Mithun Manjunath, Simran Singhi, and Khushi Gupta are the other five.
Srikanth is currently world No. 10 in singles while Ashwini Ponappa is world No. 20 in women’s doubles.
The BWF has also confirmed that the tournament, being played in the KD Jadhav Hall at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, will continue with the remaining players.
“Badminton World Federation (BWF) can confirm that seven players have been withdrawn from the India Open 2022 after testing positive for COVID-19,” read the BWF statement.
“The players returned a positive result to a mandatory RT-PCR test conducted on Tuesday. Doubles partners deemed close contact of the seven players have also been withdrawn from the tournament.”
Since, no replacements are allowed partners for the doubles player are also eliminated. That also resulted in P Sikki Reddy’s elimination from women’s double. She had paired with Ashwini.
Later in the day, Srikanth released an emotional statement on his Instagram account, stating “it is disappointing to leave the tournament with a fight but it is equally important for him and others to recover and comeback strongly for the next tournaments. He further wrote that symptoms are minor”.
The players were reported positive following the mandatory daily RT-PCR tests conducted on Tuesday.
The competition is not fully bio-secured as a number of Indian players are not staying in the “sanitised” official tournament hotel. The BAI is providing accommodation to only the foreign player and top 25-ranked Indian participants.
Indian players ranked outside top 25 are supposed to pay for their boarding and lodging. Since, the five star official hospitality facility becomes too expensive to afford for some of the players, they have opted for and been permitted to stay at the places of their choice.
However, the players are screened for COVID-19 every day before entering the competition hall.
The National Capital on Wednesday had reported more than 27,000 COVID-19 cases and 26-plus positivity rate.