Forced to pull out of the SaarLorLux Open in Germany and stay in quarantine there because of COVID-19 fears, an Indian badminton contingent, including defending champion Lakshya Sen, on Tuesday returned to the country after testing negative for the infection.
Lakshya's dreams of defending the title had come crashing down when he had to withdraw from the tournament after his father-cum-coach D K Sen tested COVID-19 positive. He, however, had no symptoms.
Two other Indian shuttlers -- former world number 13 Ajay Jayaram and 2018 winner Subhankar Dey, who had arranged funds to participate in the German tourney after the Denmark Open, also had to withdraw owing to contact with senior Sen.
Lakshya, Jayaram, Dey and physio Abhishek Wagh had tested negative ahead of the tournament.
The Indian contingent, however, had to spend five days in quarantine before fresh test results found them to be negative, clearing their return to the country following the ordeal.
"We reached Bangalore at home this morning around 5am. We all are fine and healthy," a relieved DK Sen told PTI.
"We were in quarantine since my first test came positive. The German official did the second COVID Test for all five of us on November 1 and thankfully the reports came negative, so we immediately returned home."
While Lakshya, his father and physio reached Bangalore, Dey and Jayaram took a flight from Frankfurt to Delhi.
Lakshya, who claimed five titles in the senior circuit last year including two BWF World Tour Super 100 top honours -- SaarLorLux Open and Dutch Open -- had received a bye in the opening round of the event along with Dey.
Jayaram, on the other hand, had won his opening-round clash but the COVID concerns brought an unfortunate end to India's campaign at the tournament.
"... This situation prevented the players from competing in the event and local authorities putting them in isolation," the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA), where Lakshya is a regular, said in a statement.
"The timely intervention of Badminton Association of India (BAI), German Badminton Association and Badminton World Federation (BWF) ensured that after 5 days of isolation, all of them were again put through a COVID test on Sunday which turned out negative.
"This helped the players, coach and physio to return back to India. Earlier the local authorities in Saarbrucken insisted on all the players and support staff to remain in isolation till the 10th of November 2020."
BAI also thanked the various authorities for extending their support to the Indian contingent and informed that "the Indian shuttlers and support staff will be on a seven days home quarantine now."
With no events lined up till January, Lakshya will now return to Almora for a few days.
Earlier, Jayaram had asked for help from sports minister Kiren Rijiju, the national badminton federation and BWF, saying that the organisers had not given them any information or assistance apart from asking them to isolate. Dey too had demanded compensation for the ordeal in his social media post.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) was quick to assure that it will pay for the expenses to be incurred by the two players "for the length of their quarantine in Germany from October 30 to November 10, on humanitarian grounds."
The world calendar has been severely curtailed this year because of the pandemic and after a seven-month shutdown, it restarted with the Denmark Open earlier this month.
The next tournament will be the Asia leg and World Tour Final in January next year.