Munster and Cardiff had hoped to join the Scarlets and Italian club Zebre Parma in leaving Cape Town on Sunday aboard a charter flight after South Africa was added to the UK Government’s travel red list.
But Munster then reported one case of Covid-19, while Cardiff also remained in Cape Town following two positive cases – one of which is suspected to be the new variant Omicron – with both groups having started a period of isolation.
In a statement posted on the Irish province’s official website, Munster said: “Munster’s latest round of PCR testing has identified nine positive cases.
“The group, including staff and players, will move to the designated quarantine hotel in Cape Town, joining the first player who tested positive on Sunday.
“The remaining party of 38 have all returned negative results and continue to individually isolate in their rooms where they have been based since Sunday night.
“As outlined by the Irish government on Monday, those that have received negative results have clearance to travel from the South African authorities.
“In taking every precaution, the touring party have completed another round of PCR testing this morning, the third in less that 60 hours, and will wait on results ahead of next steps.
“The 10 members of the group who have tested positive will remain in Cape Town until the end of their isolation period. While the individuals were disappointed on receiving the news, they are thankfully well and will continue to be monitored medically at this time.
“We understand this is a challenging situation and would like to thank families, friends, colleagues and our rugby community for the many messages of best wishes.”
While Cardiff’s travelling party also remains in South Africa, Scarlets players and staff are currently isolating at a Belfast hotel, while Parma’s squad are doing likewise in Italy.
The Heineken Champions Cup is due to kick off on December 10, with Cardiff hosting European champions Toulouse the following day and Munster visiting Wasps 24 hours later.
The Scarlets are scheduled to begin their European campaign against Bristol at Ashton Gate on December 11, with Munster and Cardiff also facing 10 days of hotel quarantine when they eventually arrive back.
Teams who are unable to fulfil European Cup fixtures face forfeiting the game under strict tournament rules, and it is understood that competition organisers currently have no plans to postpone games.
Such a stance, though, drew criticism last season after a handful of coronavirus-related cancellations saw teams responsible handed 28-0 defeats.
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