Saina Nehwal, HS Prannoy, Parupalli Kashyap cleared to play Thailand Open

File photo: Parupalli Kashyap (L) with Saina Nehwal NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images

Indian badminton players Saina Nehwal, HS Prannoy and Parupalli Kashyap have all been cleared to play the Yonex Thailand Open Super 1000 tournament after the Badminton World Federation concluded that they pose no danger to the tournament following reassessment of their samples in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Saina had earlier tested positive and was placed in isolation in a hospital there. Her teammate HS Prannoy also tested positive but his sample later returned a negative result. Kashyap, Nehwal's husband, who was sharing a room with her, had gone into self-quarantine and was also retested.

Nehwal and Prannoy 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 but 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.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) had said the entire Indian team had been categorised high-risk by Thai health authorities. All players and support staff, it had said, were self-quarantining in their rooms at the hotel and would be subject to a PCR test during the day.

It had said Indian players scheduled to play today would be allowed to come to the venue but no support staff would be allowed.

Though the BWF did not mention the names of individual players, it essentially corroborated an earlier release by the Badminton Association of India that had said both Nehwal and Prannoy had tested positive.

Nehwal was due to play this morning in the first round against Kisona Selvaduray, while Kashyap was due to face Canada's Jason Anthony Ho-Shue. While both had to give walkovers due to the earlier positive results, the BWF will now reschedule both matches.

In a tweet soon after the news broke, Nehwal said she'd been informed of her positive result "just before the warm-up" for the match. "I still didn't receive the covid test report from yesterday...it's very confusing and today just before the warm-up for the match they tell me to go to hospital in Bangkok...saying that I'm positive...according to rules the report should come in 5 hours."

Curiously, both Nehwal and Prannoy had tested positive for the virus a few weeks ago - they, and other players, had attended the wedding of fellow player RMV Gurusaidutt on November 25. Four players - Prannoy, Gurusaidutt, Kashyap and Pranaav Jerry Chopra - tested positive. After an initial negative test, Nehwal's results too returned positive.

"We (Saina & him) got infected with Covid on November 30 and we were in isolation for 14 days. We had a few symptoms and we tested negative on the 12th day. We had another week's isolation and started training for this tournament on December 18 or 19. After coming here also we were tested twice. It was very confusing to see Saina test positive in the third testing. We did our antibodies test before we came to Bangkok and me and Saina and sufficient antibodies in the blood tests so it's very strange how this test is positive. We are wishing that it's a false positive and we can reschedule our matches to tomorrow and play," Kashyap said in an Instagram video.

Meanwhile, it is understood that a doctor from the Department of Disease Control and the COVID-19 testing team is attending to Kidambi Srikanth, after the Indian men's singles player posted pictures of a bloodied nose following nasal swabs. BWF has sought an explanation from the Badminton Association of Thailand and the Department of Disease Control regarding the matter.

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The two Thailand Open Super 1000 events over two weeks followed by the BWF Tour finals mark the return of top-flight international badminton.

The entire Indian badminton contingent, on January 6, had cleared the COVID-19 test and had been training as a part of the Green Zone, consisting of players and all stakeholders such as umpires, line judges, personnel from BWF, Badminton Association of Thailand, medical staff, and TV production crew. The most recent test, in which the players were found positive, was their third COVID-19 test since arrival on January 4.