England consider calling off tour of Sri Lanka amid coronavirus threat

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England were on Thursday night considering calling off their tour of Sri Lanka before an anticipated 3,000 supporters head to Galle for the first Test, the Mail Online reported.

Hopes were fading that England could continue with a trip that is scheduled to feature two Tests — the first of which starts on Thursday. On Thursday night the ECB were waiting for guidance from the government but it was becoming increasingly likely that the team would be heading home.

England have already taken steps to be vigilant on this tour, from banning handshakes and having a two-metre ‘exclusion zone’ with media to then saying there would be no autographs or selfies with supporters.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka, which has remained largely untouched by the virus, stopped issuing visas to tourists and closed all schools for at least a month.

England had been hopeful of carrying on the tour before a rapid change of mood on Thursday. The biggest fear in Sri Lanka is that infected England supporters could accelerate the spread of the virus in a country where there have been just three reported cases.

The ECB were on Thursday night considering their options, including the possibility of playing the series behind closed doors, as India have decided to do for their one-day series against South Africa.

With England supporters set to travel this weekend to Galle for the first Test, an ECB spokesman said: ‘We are in regular contact with the Sri Lankan and British High Commission in addition to Sri Lanka Cricket around the Test matches.

‘At this stage the series is planned to continue but we want to stress that this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day.

‘We urge fans who are considering travelling to consult with the current British and Sri Lankan government advice and to continue to do this up until the point of travel and for the duration of the trip.’

If the series is called off, attempts will be made to rearrange it before June 2021 when the World Test Championship finishes, as these two Tests count towards it.