Johannesburg — The Munster rugby team, stranded in South Africa after a member of the travelling party contracted Covid-19, have been cleared to return home, according to the Irish sports minister.
However, the unnamed person who tested positive and one close contact must remain in a Cape Town hotel until the end of their isolation period.
While South African rugby officials remained silent on Monday, Irish sports minister Jack Chambers told national broadcaster RTE in Dublin the province had received the green light to leave.
"The South African health authorities have given approval for the rest of the (delegation) to return home, so there is active work ongoing now to allow Munster to get home," said Chambers.
"There is intensive work ongoing at the moment to get them home as quickly as possible but, as you know, there are difficulties in the travel situation in southern Africa at the moment."
After South African scientists last week uncovered a new coronavirus variant, later named Omicron, the United Kingdom red-listed the country.
Ireland took similar action and the Munster delegation will have to quarantine for 10 days when they return to their base in the southwestern city of Limerick.
Munster had been scheduled to play United Rugby Championship (URC) matches against the Bulls in Pretoria last Saturday and the Lions in Johannesburg this weekend.
Both matches were cancelled after the discovery of the new variant as were the fixtures Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre Parma were due to play in South Africa.
Cardiff, whose delegation includes one positive case, are still in Cape Town, the Scarlets are quarantining in Belfast and Zebre have also left South Africa.
The URC was launched this year as a successor to the Pro14 competition and includes four teams each from Ireland, Wales and South Africa and two each from Italy and Scotland.