Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Australia batter Travis Head has tested positive for Covid-19, as the Australia team delay their flight from Melbourne to Sydney and call up replacements for the fourth Test at the SCG, with doubts mounting as to whether the series will be able to continue with both squads now having cases.
Cricket Australia confirmed on Friday morning that Head had tested positive from a routine PCR test becoming the first player in either squad to be affected. He is asymptomatic and will remain in Melbourne with his partner to isolate for seven days under the Victorian government guidelines.
A Cricket Australia spokesperson confirmed that the remainder of the Australia squad, families, and support staff have undergone PCR and rapid tests on Friday morning and are still expected to travel to Sydney on a charter today.
"As part of our testing procedures, we are PCR testing players, their families and our support staff daily," the spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, Travis returned a positive Covid-19 result earlier today. Thankfully, he is asymptomatic at this stage. We anticipate that he will be available to play in the fifth Vodafone men's Ashes Test in Hobart.
"We are grateful to our exceptional medical staff for all the work they have done throughout this series and we will continue to work with and support the players, their families and staff from both teams."
England are travelling separately to Sydney, after CA split the teams onto separate charters to try to mitigate the risks, but without coach Chris Silverwood after it was confirmed one of his family members had tested positive for Covid-19. Silverwood, like Head, will miss the Sydney Test and remain in isolation in Melbourne. That brought the total number of positive cases in the England touring party to seven. However, the entire England playing group has reportedly returned negative PCR tests in the last 24 hours.
The first Covid case to hit the Ashes appeared on the second morning of the MCG Test although the game was able to continue after the rest of the England squad were cleared through rapid tests. There has been daily PCR testing since.
New South Wales recorded more than 21,000 cases on Friday. The definition of a close contact has been narrowed following a meeting of the state and federal government on Thursday and the isolation period reduced in most states.