New South Wales close contact rules won't stop SCG Test
The third Test in Melbourne continued despite cases in the wider England squad
The New South Wales Government has declared they will do all they can to ensure the SCG's Ashes Test goes ahead, guaranteeing players won't be sidelined for a week as close contacts.
Cricket Australia were able to breathe a sigh of relief on Tuesday, when all players from Australia and England returned negative PCR tests to COVID-19.
That has at least in the short-term put pay 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 Cricket Australia. There had been fears 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, in effect, 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."
Cricket Australia are also confident they will be able to 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 their first Ashes Test is key, after the state government helped fund a big-money bid to secure the match.
Meanwhile the incubation period of Covid-19 means officials still have a nervous wait ahead in coming days to ensure the virus doesn't spread further in England's camp.
No players had reported any symptoms before their PCR tests on Monday night, and play was able to start uninterrupted on day three in Melbourne.
"Players from the Australian and England teams all had PCR Covid-19 Tests after play yesterday and all results have come back negative," Cricket Australia said in a statement.
"The families of both sets of players also had PCR tests yesterday and all returned a negative test. The England team's support staff and their family members who tested positive after PCR tests yesterday are in isolation."
Australia have so far managed to get almost all matches played on home soil since the start of Covid-19 through its protocols.
Only one Test has been postponed - against Afghanistan last summer. A one-day series against New Zealand was also called off when the pandemic first surfaced mid-series.
Otherwise the BBL, WBBL and women's internationals have got through unscathed, with crowds able to attend all major events bar the first closed-door sports event in Australia with an ODI against New Zealand in March 2020.
"We've seen through the last 18 months [we can get games on]," CA boss Nick Hockley said. "I have to say I am so proud of the work of everybody involved, in particular thank the players but also the governments and health departments across the country. We're having to learn to live with this."