England players have been instructed
not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their Test
tour of Sri Lanka in a bid to insulate the squad from coronavirus.
The England team have been on the island - which recorded its second
confirmed case overnight - for just over a week and have stepped up
existing precautions ahead of the first Test in Galle on 19 March.
Between 3 000-5 000 supporters, many of them retired, are due to fly
to Sri Lanka and they have been warned the usual level of interaction
they have come to expect from their heroes has been affected by medical
Joe Root's side are typically happy to sign shirts and bats as well
as appearing in photographs but have been instructed to keep their
distance from those arriving from the United Kingdom. Interactions with
the media have already been impacted, with a two-metre buffer zone
implemented for any group interviews.
A statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board read: "Due to
the ongoing situation regarding the current coronavirus outbreak around
the world, the England men's Test team, currently touring Sri Lanka,
kindly requests all supporters joining the tour to maintain good levels
of hygiene as advised by the World Health Organisation and the NHS, to
avoid possible infection and spreading.
"The touring party is now taking positive steps to reduce the risk of
its health by limiting public engagements for its players and
"England players and staff have been asked to avoid any unnecessary
public engagements, and temporarily avoid casual supporter interaction
such as selfies or autographs.
"Whilst we acknowledge that this will be disappointing for some
supporters, we stress that this a measure to protect the ongoing
well-being of the England Test squad and is a decision which has not
been taken lightly.
"Following the world health agency's advice, and in order to protect
the players and, in turn, the integrity and continuation of the Sri
Lanka Test tour, the team has put in place several precautions, leading
to a number of normal activities being cancelled for the foreseeable
"As a result, the touring party is now taking positive steps to
reduce the risk of its health by limiting public engagements for its
players and management team."
Handshakes between squad members, officials and opposition were already banned, with 'fist bumps' the new preferred greeting.
- TEAMtalk media