Saina Nehwal Cleared to Play After Dramatic Twist in COVID-19 Saga

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Saina Newah to play Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia on Wednesday. (photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images)
Saina Newah to play Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia on Wednesday. (photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Bangkok: One of the biggest suprises on day one of the YONEX Thailand Open was that World No. 20 Saina Nehwal of India had been tested positive for COVID-19, and had to withdraw from the tournament earlier Tuesday. Her first round opponent, Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia able to advance to the second round without breaking a sweat. Another suprise was India’s No. 6 seed PV Sindhu was upset by unseeded Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark 21-16, 24-26, 13-21.

However, Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) on late Tuesday have confirmed that further tests for Saina Nehwal, her husband who plays men’s singles – Parupalli Kashyap, HS Prannoy (another men’s singles player from India) and Jones Ralfy Jansen (Germany’s men’s doubles and mixed doubles player) came back negative, and they have been cleared to take part in the ongoing Thailand Open.

Just like his wife’s first round match, Parupalli’s opening match against Jason Anthony Ho-Shue of Canada was rescheduled for Wednesday as well.

Meanwhile, BWF said another player, Adham Hatem Elgamal from Egypt, has been withdrawn from the tournament.

Earlier Tuesday, Nehwal and Prannoy were brought to hospital to undergo further tests while Jansen and Elgamal were self-isolating in the hotel. Nehwal’s husband Parupalli Kashyap was also asked to self-quarantine due to the married couple sharing a room.

“Upon retesting the four players’ samples earlier today, Prannoy, Jansen and Elgamal returned negative, while Nehwal was found to be positive again. The four players then underwent a second PCR test and an antibody blood test for further confirmation. This evening, BWF received the results and reasoned decisions from the Diagnosis and Investigation Committee of the Thailand Ministry of Public Health — a working group of six doctors that has been formed just for this tournament,” said a statement released by BWF.

BWF said Nehwal, Prannoy and Jansen tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG was positive. A positive antibody test means a person has been infected with the COVID-19 virus at some point in the past. It does not mean they are currently infected. The trio all contracted COVID-19 in late 2020. “The committee was satisfied that they are not infected and do not pose a danger to the tournament,” added BWF.

Nevertheless, Elgamal tested positive on the PCR test but his antibody IgG was negative, indicating that he has no antibodies for the virus as he had not contracted COVID-19 before. BWF then advised the player to pull out of the tournament.

“Elgamal, a mixed doubles player, will now be taken to hospital for further observation and tests and will remain in isolation for a minimum 10 days at the hospital. His mixed doubles match with partner Doha Hany scheduled for this evening has been postponed,” explaine BWF.

“Subsequently, the Egyptian team are considered high risk. Hany is categorised as direct contact and therefore has to self-quarantine and be tested daily until further notice. Women’s singles player Hadia Hosny is a close contact and can play subject to a negative test,” continued BWF.

The similar case of positive on the PCR test and positive on antibody IgG could also apply to World No. 1 men’s singles player Kento Momota. He was tested negative previously but then recieved COVID-19 positive result at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport before flying to Bangkok for the YONEX Thailand Open. His COVID-19 positive result forcing the Japanese national team to cancel its trip to play the Thailand Open.

However, according to Japanese media, since then, further tests for Momota have all returned negative. Which mean’s Momota must have somehow contracted COVID-19 and recovered.

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