Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described a cricket ball as a “natural vector of disease” as he confirmed the sport remains banned outside the elite level.

England are due to play their first Test since the sporting shutdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic when they face West Indies at the Ageas Bowl on July 8.

The tourists began a three-day intra-squad warm-up match at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday, but it remains unclear when the sport may be allowed to restart at grassroots level, with the PM saying on Tuesday “we’re still working on ways to make cricket more Covid-secure, but we can’t change the guidance yet.”

Tory chair of the science and technology committee Greg Clark, asked about the return of cricket, said: “Can he now specify from his statement whether the ban on cricket has come to an end. Cricket is perhaps our most socially distanced team sport. We’ve lost half the summer, but there is another half left to be enjoyed by players and spectators alike.”

Johnson added: “The problem with cricket as everybody understands, that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially, at any rate and we’ve been round it many times with our scientific friends.

“At the moment we’re still working on ways to make cricket more Covid-secure, but we can’t change the guidance yet.”

A statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board statement read: “The ECB along with the nation’s cricket players are keen to see the imminent and safe return of our sport at recreational level and have been working hard with government to achieve this.

“We believe that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted. It is our strong desire to work with government to see the return of recreational cricket on or around 4th July, as they continue to lift other restrictions more broadly across society.

“We are heartened that the government has already permitted the return of other ball sports, including tennis and basketball, and we are sure that our interpretation of the risks around ball transmission is consistent with these other games.

“We can confirm that any guidance we share with the game will include directions on how to mitigate any risk from handling the ball as we continue to prioritise the health and safety of the cricket family in all our decision-making.”