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PBA referee isolated as league waits further test results

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PBA referee under quarantine as suspected COVID case (5:49)

PBA deputy commissioner Eric Castro explains the protocols the league is taking after a referee was put into quarantine as a suspected COVID case (5:49)

In a joint statement with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the PBA said that the referee that was a "suspect case" produced a negative antigen test on Wednesday afternoon.

"A referee of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup being held in Clark who was earlier reported to be a 'suspect case' may be a case of false positive after the conduct of antigen testing Wednesday afternoon yielded negative on the presence of COVID-19 virus," the statement said.

The referee, who also underwent the more rigorous RT-PCR test, will remain on a strict 14-day quarantine at the Athletes' Village in Capas, Tarlac.

All eight people whom he was in contact with inside the bubble have also been isolated and will be tested on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Commissioner Willie Marcial first made the announcement of a suspect case Wednesday in an exclusive interview on One News.

The referee, whose identity wasn't revealed, left the Quest Hotel in the Clark bubble Wednesday morning and was taken to Clark for isolation and retesting.

Deputy commissioner Eric Castro confirmed the referee officiated Tuesday night's game between the Alaska Aces and Blackwater Elite.

"After the game of Blackwater and Alaska [Tuesday] night, we were informed by the CDC that one of our game officials tested positive," Castro said. "So we immediately did the necessary protocols such as contact tracing."

All the referees who officiated Tuesday's games will be tested again and will not be calling games until Sunday.

"The first and second layer (of contacts) were quarantined," said Marcial. "As far as I know, in my meeting with (BCDA) Sec. Vince Dizon, (CDC) Pres. Noel Mananquil and other DOH members, close contact is what happens between 10 to 15 minutes. The referees haven't been in contact with each other that long. Regardless, we're still asking everyone to take good care."

All players, coaches and personnel from the Alaska Aces and Blackwater Elite will undergo testing Thursday morning.

The CDC has cleared the PBA to proceed with the games on Wednesday night, Marcial said. Stricter measures have been implemented at the venue.

The remaining seven referees will officiate back-to-back games. Four will still be present in games and an additional two to three will be deployed from Manila.

"We're looking at having just three referees enter the floor during games so the alternate referee can officiate in the second game. We're pacing them too," Marcial said. "The schedule remains the same. I told the players, staff, referees and table officials that this is a wake-up call for us. We shouldn't be too relaxed. We're in the bubble, but we have to follow the protocols."

All activities inside the hotel, including the use of the swimming pool and the gym, will be suspended to give way to disinfecting.

The referee is asymptomatic and was tested on Oct. 19 along with 27 others whose tests all came back negative Tuesday night. He had previously tested negative three times, twice before entering the bubble and once after.

ESPN5's Carlo Pamintuan and Sid Ventura contributed to this report.