Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Players safe in COVID-hit Chennai hotel

Three plate teams - Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya - are staying in the star hotel in a bio-secure environment, along with match officials and scorers.

BCCI and the state associations have issued strict guidelines in all the six venues for the tournament. (Representative Image)

As the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gears up to host its first domestic tournament of the season - Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - it is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the safety and the security of the players.

While the Board and the state associations have issued strict guidelines in all the six venues, the news of 20 staff members at Chennai’s Leela Palace testing positive for COVID-19, have put the BCCI on high alert.

Three plate teams - Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya - are staying in the star hotel in a bio-secure environment, along with match officials and scorers.

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However, some of the top BCCI officials have confirmed to Sportstar that the hotel staff, who are serving the players inside the bio-bubble, have been under quarantine since December 25 and all their tests have returned negative.

“We are definitely monitoring the situation, but there is no reason to panic. All the stakeholders have been tested and the results are negative,” one of the BCCI officials said.

This is Chennai’s second luxury hotel to have emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot after the ITC Grand Chola.

This publication spoke to some members of all the three teams residing in the hotel and they confirmed that things are ‘fine so far’. While the players and all the staff have been confined to their rooms, the Board has made sure that food is made in a separate kitchen for all the stakeholders, who are inside the bubble. “The BCCI and the state association (TNCA) are working closely and there should not be a problem. Safety of the players is our utmost priority,” the Board official said.

Keeping a tab

The news triggered panic among players and support staff. But Gideon Kharkongor, the secretary of Meghalaya Cricket Association, told Sportstar that all its players are safe. "I just spoke to the team manager and he said that the hotel has assured them that there is nothing to panic. All the staff who are serving the players have been under quarantine for more than a week, so things are fine. The staff who have tested positive are not part of the bubble and have been isolated," Kharkongor said.

Mizoram official Khairul Jamal Majumdar, too, had a word with his team in Chennai and was assured that everything is fine. "We have been told that all the staff were tested much before the teams checked in and once the reports came in, they were immediately isolated. We have appointed doctors from the Apollo Hospitals to take care of our players," Majumdar said.

Safety assured

One of the hotel sources confirmed that there was no threat to the safety and security of the players. “Out of 300 plus staff tested, only 20 were asymptomatic. These staff are not in guest contact areas. They are from back of the house areas. All the staff members have been quarantined and are not working now,” a hotel source said.

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“The bio-bubble was created many days back. Hence safety and security are in place. At The Leela Palace Chennai, the safety and well being of all our guests and associates is of paramount importance. We have been following all the government mandates and adhering to the guidelines provided by the authorities.”

“Additionally we have also implemented "Suraksha” by The Leela in association with Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing processes. Bureau Veritas has conducted two audits out of which one was a surprise audit where the hotel scored 97.5%,” one of the hotel sources said.

Media not allowed

And not just in Chennai, the BCCI medical and operations teams are monitoring all the facilities in the other venues as well - Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Indore and Vadodara. While the state associations and the Board are taking all the precautions to ensure that the players don’t breach the bubble, most of the associations have decided not to allow the media on practice and match days.

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In a detailed list of dos and don’ts, the BCCI has alerted all the stakeholders to maintain the protocol to avoid any breach. “We have been strictly instructed to keep a tab on all the safety and security of the players. A minor blip could cause disaster and we cannot afford that,” a state association chief said.

Food quality improves

There are teething troubles, though. After entering the bio-bubble in a plush South Mumbai hotel a couple of days ago, some of the players had complained about the quality of the food being served.

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The three teams - Mumbai, Delhi and Kerala - are currently serving their quarantine period in the South Mumbai hotel, while the remaining three teams of Elite Group E are putting up at a hotel in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex.

The players had expressed their concerns regarding the quality of the food that was served, but with the state association and the BCCI stepping in, the issue has been resolved.