'Everyone is safe': B.C. junior athletes stranded in South Africa due to COVID-19 variant
Young athletes that are representing Canada for the field hockey Junior World Cup in South Africa are stranded after the federal government suddenly stopped all travel to several southern African countries last week.
Team Canada's under-21 field hockey team was scheduled to face off against Uruguay, England and Belgium in the first two weeks of December at the Junior World Cup.
However, the tournament was cancelled after the appearance of a new COVID-19 variant of concern, called the Omicron variant, began circulating in countries around the world.
On Friday, Canada announced that it was banning foreign nationals from entering the country if they were travelling from several southern African countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Direct flights from these countries to Canada were also stopped, the federal government announced Friday.
Now, members of the field hockey team are stuck in South Africa without a clear plan to get home.
"Everyone is safe and well – the team will remain in [sic] situ while the flight home is arranged," said Kevin Underhill, spokesperson for Field Hockey Canada, in a statement Monday.
Underhill says the federal government is working on bringing the athletes home.
"(Sports Canada and Global Affairs) understand this is a junior national team which is only in South Africa to represent Canada at the world level," said Underhill. "Field Hockey Canada feels fortunate to have the highest levels of government working on this on our behalf."
The field hockey team is made up of 20 athletes, including two reserve players. Fourteen of the players are from B.C., including five players from Vancouver Island.
Four of the island players are from Victoria – Stefani Sajko, Libby Hogg, Nora Struchtrup and Tayler Guy – and one player is from Duncan, Jenna Goodman.
With files from Hannah Jackson, CTV News