Cricket South Africa (CSA) is hoping for an Omicron-free series against India that starts with the first Test at Centurion on December 26.

The deadly variant of COVID-19 emerged in South Africa in November, which forced the Board of Control for Cricket in India to cancel the T20 leg of the tour and postpone the Tests by nine days.

The delay is a blessing in disguise as the cases have dropped to the 15,000-mark from 27,000 last week. CSA Chief Medical Officer Dr Shuaib Manjra trusts the BioSecure Environment (BSE) to protect the players and the series. "The Omicron peak in South Africa is on its way down. The curve is on a downward trend. It looks positive, but it is a highly transmissible variant, and we have to hold on to the BSE. We want to protect the players primarily and the tour," he said in a chat with  Sportstar  on Wednesday.

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Dr Manjra is aware of the community transmission in the provinces. He is prepared to deal with the consequences if there is an emergency. "The virus has spiralled in the community. The level of community transmission was huge, but since we have created a bubble, hopefully, we can keep that level of transmission out of here. If we get a positive case, we will deal with it as it comes along. We hope we can keep it completely negative," he added.

Secured environment

Team India has checked in at the picturesque Irene Country Lodge in Centurion. And they have the entire hotel to themselves.

The property was under lockdown in anticipation of the touring party. The staff had to report a week earlier. "The staff is living in-house already. They moved seven days before the Indian team arrived and had to go through intense testing. So right from the hotel, the stadium, the transport service - the team bus and the charter flight - has been part of the BSE.

"The hotel was previously used for the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series. And during that time, both teams stayed together, but this time around, the Proteas is living in a different hotel," Dr Manjra highlighted the preparations for the guests.

All the players and support staff will undergo symptom screening and COVID-19 tests daily in all the venues. 

Though the borders are shut, the South African government has guaranteed safe passage to players if required.

Nortje for ODIs

Anrich Nortje, who is out of the Test series due to a persistent hip injury, is expected to be back for the ODIs starting in January. The right-arm pacer has been the Proteas' leading bowler in Tests in 2021 with 25 wickets in five Tests at 20.76. "Every player, except Nortje, is fit. Hopefully, we can get him back for the ODI series," he said.

Nortje's temporary disappearance may hand an opportunity to Duanne Olivier, who will make his comeback from the Kolpak system.