There is relief among three Malawian netball stars based in the United Kingdom following an announcement that professional sport in England and Scotland will continue behind closed doors, despite a new national lockdown.
The development means that Queens trio—shooter Joyce Mvula and goal defenders Laureen Ngwira and Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda—who play in the English netball top-flight, will not be affected as elite leagues in other sports are allowed to carry on.
The new lockdown was announced in a television address on Monday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to combat the spread of the virus, particularly the new variant, with measures expected to last until mid-February.
Professional sport in Scotland—which is Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda’s new base—is also unaffected.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ngwira said they are relieved the new lockdown will not affect their league ahead of next month’s kick-off.
“Having lost out on last season, which was cancelled, it is a relief that we are not affected.
“We are still training and playing [friendly] games under strict guidelines. The key factor is just to follow the rules,” she said.
Meanwhile, Manchester Thunder, the team which Ngwira and Mvula play for, have suspended an unnamed player who broke coronavirus restrictions after attending a New Year’s Eve party.
However, The Nation has established that the player in question is neither of the two Malawians who are still training with the team.
According to Telegraph Sport, BBC and SkySports reports, Thunder, the reigning champions of the Superleague, England’s top domestic netball tier, took the decision to suspend the player after she posted photos on social media which “clearly showed” her at the party with people outside her household in the Manchester area, which is under tier four coronavirus restrictions.
“The player, who has since deleted the photos from her Instagram account, declined to comment when approached by Telegraph Sport,” reads part of an article carried by telegraph.co.uk.
In a statement, England Netball, which runs the Superleague, is also quoted as having said: “We fully support the position taken by Manchester Thunder, and the health and safety of our players and staff is paramount.”