The Pakistan Super League has been suspended indefinitely after six more positive COVID-19 results followed Aussie bowler Fawad Ahmed's positive test.
Islamabad United announced on Monday that Ahmed, a Pakistan-born player who represents Australia and plays for the Perth Schorchers, had tested positive.
But things took a disturbing twist on Thursday when an outbreak of six more cases came to light.
Teams competing in the country's highest-profile sporting event, which attracts a host of international players, were all present in the southern city of Karachi, where matches were being played in a hub format.
"The health and wellbeing of all participants is paramount," a statement from the country's cricket board said, adding the decision to suspend the PSL with immediate effect was made following a meeting with the team owners.
The Pakistan Cricket Board "will focus on the safe and secure passage of all participants, and arrange repeat PCR tests, vaccines and isolation facilities to the six participating sides", it added.
The decision was made after seven positive coronavirus cases - including Ahmed and England batsman Tom Banton - were reported in the competition, which started on February 20.
Along with Ahmed, several Australians have been competing in the tournament, including Ben Dunk (Lahore Qalanaders), Ben Cutting (Quetta Gladiators), Chris Lynn (Multan Sultans) and Dan Christian (Karachi Kings).
Christian withdrew from the competition over fears of catching the virus and planned to fly out on Thursday.
"It's a tough day for Pakistan cricket," the PCB's chief executive Wasim Khan told a press conference.
"We will try to find a window to complete the remaining matches before the end of the year."
Officials did not immediately give a resumption date.
Fawad Ahmed rocked by positive virus test
Ahmed took to Twitter on Monday to announce his positive test.
"Thanks for all the kind messages, please keep remember (sic) me in ur prayers, much needed," he tweeted.
"And please everyone stay safe."
Ahmed gained Australian citizenship in 2013 and has since represented his adopted country.
He has played three one-day internationals and two T20 internationals for Australia.
Ahmed represents Victoria in first-class cricket and has played for the Melbourne Renegades, Sydney Thunder and Perth Scorchers in the BBL.
Pakistan has so far recorded 585,435 cases of COVID-19 and more than 13,000 deaths.
Pakistan imposed a lockdown only for a few weeks after the first COVID-19 case was detected in March last year, and has gradually lifted the few restrictions it had in place since then.
Authorities last week gave permission for the PSL tournament to increase crowd sizes from 20 per cent to 50 per cent of stadium capacity.
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