Zimbabwe have been forced to put their preparations for the African Nations Championship finals (CHAN) on hold after nine members of the squad tested positive for COVID-19 when the team re-grouped after Christmas on Monday.
A further five members of the technical team also tested positive, Zimbabwe Football Association communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela confirmed to reporters.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation at large that nine players who are part of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) provisional squad have tested positive to COVID-19,” a ZIFA statement said.
“In adherence to our COVID-19 medical protocols, all players and members of the technical team were tested on Monday upon their return from festive break and the nine were ruled to have tested positive.
“All the affected players have been notified and quarantined in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) dictates. The players have also been advised to inform their families and contacts.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association has also informed the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the City Health Department for further guidance.
“Meanwhile, ZIFA has temporarily suspended all training sessions for the CHAN team pending consultation with other stakeholders, but the team remains in camp until further notice.”
ZIFA have placed a further 11 players on stand-by to join the squad if the positive cases do not recover in time.
Zimbabwe have been drawn in a tough pool that is scheduled to see them open their campaign against hosts Cameroon on January 16, followed by a meeting with Burkina Faso four days later, and a clash against Mali on January 24.
Zimbabwe have qualified for four of the previous five CHAN tournaments, finishing fourth in 2014, but failing to make it out the pool stages in the other three.