Zimbabwe's preparations for the upcoming African Nations Championship (Chan) football tournament in Cameroon have been suspended after nine players tested positive for Covid-19.
The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) on Tuesday said the nine tested positive when they returned to camp after a Christmas break.
“In adherence to our Covid-19 medical protocols, all players and members of the technical team were tested on 28 December upon their return from the festive break and the nine were found positive,” Zifa said in a statement.
“The players have been advised to inform their families and contacts.”
The suspended training for the whole deals a blow to Zimbabwe’s preparations for the tournament that begins on January 16.
The southern African country has already cancelled proposed preparatory matches with Kenya and Congo due to Covid-19-related travel complications.
“The coronavirus pandemic has made travelling hectic,” said Wellington Mupandare, the national team manager.
“There was also Rwanda, who came up with a proposal, but this too was not feasible because of the difficulties in travelling and huge financial costs that were required.”
Coaches have been complaining that Zimbabwe's players lack match fitness because they have been inactive since the Covid-19 outbreak in March.
Chan is exclusively for locally based players.
Zimbabwe were placed in Group A alongside hosts Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Mali in the group stage.
Zimbabwe is scheduled to leave for Cameroon on January 11, with the Warriors scheduled to play in the opening match against the hosts on January 16.
Zimbabwe has been recording a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past two months following a lull mid-year.
As of December 28, Zimbabwe had 13,148 Covid-19 cases with 354 deaths and 10,705 recoveries.