England will be without coach Chris Silverwood for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney after the 46-year-old tested positive in the latest Covid-19 drama to rock the tourists.
Silverwood awoke on Thursday to the news that he had been identified as a close contact, after a family member in the touring party contracted the virus.
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The number of positive cases among the England touring party now stands at seven, with Silverwood the first coach or player among the group to test positive.
Earlier this week, the Boxing Day Test was left on a knife's edge after four non-playing members of England’s touring group tested positive for Covid-19
Cricket Australia confirmed two family members and another two support staff returned positive rapid antigen tests in what was the biggest threat to the series so far.
Channel Seven were also forced into a huge commentary change for day two of the Boxing Day Test after a member of its broadcast team tested positive on Sunday night.
However, Silverwood's absence for the fourth Test in Sydney is yet another blow to an England side already reeling after three straight defeats ended their hopes of reclaiming the Ashes.
The under-fire England coach returned a negative result in the latest round of tests, but will remain in Melbourne and isolate for 10 days.
With the Sydney Test starting on Wednesday, he is not expected to be available for any of the match, when England must attempt to regroup after surrendering the series 3-0 in less than 12 days of cricket.
Batting coach Graham Thorpe is expected to take over as England's head coach in the interim, with their cricket staff now torn apart by the outbreak.
Bowling coach Jon Lewis and spin bowling coach Jeetan Patel are believed to be among others staying behind in Victoria as well as strength and conditioning coach Darren Veness.
The latest case has sparked fears of the outbreak growing again within the England camp.
A member of the family group felt unwell on the night of Boxing Day, and rapid tests the following morning showed a positive case.
The entire touring party was then rapid tested on the morning of day two, with all players returning negatives but a total of four cases found in the tour party.
Those four results were then backed up by PCR tests later that night, providing a further two cases in non-playing members of the group.
Officials continue to cross their fingers that the virus has not spread to the playing group.
The England players are being tested daily under a new regime introduced following the initial positive case, with the rest of the series remaining under some threat.
England players are due to share a chartered flight with the Australians to Sydney on Friday, before they all stay at a hotel booked out exclusively for the groups.
Sydney Test to go ahead as planned
Cricket Australia (CA) are adamant the Sydney Test can go ahead as planned, despite rapidly rising case numbers in the city and the outbreak in England's camp
Meanwhile, CA is confident fans won't stay away from next week's Sydney Test amid the record surge of Covid cases in the city.
NSW recorded 11,201 new cases on Monday, with more than 8000 of those from the Sydney metropolitan area.
That figure was up to 12,226 new cases on Thursday.
Crowds of above 35,000 are expected for the first three days in Sydney.
That drop is in line with figures from around the country throughout the Ashes series, with attendances down across all sports during the pandemic.
In Melbourne, the Boxing Day crowd was down significantly for an Ashes attendance, but figures remained high for the rest of the Test as fans opted to go to days where crowds are usually lower.
Some 40,945 arrived for the 80 minutes of play on day three, while as many as 35,000 were expected to attend day four before England's collapse meant it did not go ahead.
But officials are hopeful the numbers will not dip beyond those levels in Sydney from next Wednesday, where there have been more than 50,000 new cases in the past week.
"We've got very robust COVID-safe plans that are led by the venues working closely with the health authorities," CA CEO Nick Hockley told ABC.
"Outdoor settings we know are lower risk. Everyone will be double vaccinated, they're seated venues.
"As long as everyone follows the advice, I think people can come in the knowledge they're going to be safe."
The NSW Government on Wednesday changed close contact rules for all people, allowing them to leave isolation after a negative test.
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