The NSW government has declared the fourth Ashes Test will go ahead as scheduled at the SCG, guaranteeing players won’t be forced out of matches as close contacts and promising minimal disruptions.
Cricket Australia (CA) was able to breathe a sigh of relief on Tuesday when all players from Australia and England returned negative PCR tests to COVID-19.
At least in the short term, that has put paid to fears of a large outbreak in the England camp, after four non-playing members of their touring party tested positive to the virus.
But bigger questions still await CA.
There had been concerns that NSW’s close contact rules would force players into a week of isolation if they were near an infected person in a state that is averaging more than 6000 cases a day.
That had the potential to immediately kill off the Test if several players were close contacts and asked to isolate for a week under previous rules.
However NSW Health’s claims on Tuesday mean that players would be treated the same as they were in Melbourne, and able to play on if they were close contacts.
Likewise, NSW health minister Brad Hazzard promised that the Test would be able to go on with minimal issues if a player or further support staff contracted the virus.
“The SCG Test is sacred, an important date at the start of the third year of our life with COVID-19,” Hazzard said.
“I want to assure the cricket-loving public, under our rules any players with exposure to a known case of COVID-19 would be asked to test and isolate only until a negative result was received.
“If there are any cases within the teams, their support staff, or families, we will work with the people involved to ensure they are safe, and there is as little disruption to others as possible.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet then doubled down, adamant NSW would not lose its New Years’ match after it was also salvaged last summer amid the Northern Beaches outbreak.
“Any speculation the Sydney Test match is not going ahead is completely untrue,” Perrottet said.
“The Sydney Test is a highlight on our state’s calendar, it is happening … no questions asked.”
CA is also confident it can work with the Tasmanian government to ensure the fifth Test in Hobart goes ahead.
Tasmania has had minimal cases of the virus and the threat of players and broadcasters becoming close contacts in Sydney could be an issue.
However, Tasmania’s willingness to host a first Ashes Test is key, after the state government funded a $4 million bid to secure the match when it was shifted away from Perth.