Ashes Test to go ahead in Sydney after NSW alters close contact rule

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, pictured here speaking to the media in Sydney.
Dominic Perrottet has guaranteed the fourth Ashes Test will go ahead in Sydney. Image: Getty

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Health Minister Brad Hazzard have declared the fourth Ashes Test will go ahead as scheduled in Sydney, with close contact rules set to be eased.

Cricket Australia breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday when all players from the Australia and England teams returned negative PCR tests to Covid-19.

That 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.

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However questions were raised about the feasibility of holding the fourth Test in Sydney from January 5 considering the state's close contact rules and the explosion of cases, which surged past 11,000 on Wednesday.

Current rules in NSW state that close contacts of Covid cases must isolate for seven days, which would have been disastrous had a player been deemed a close contact during the Sydney Test.

It had the potential to immediately kill off the Test if several players were deemed close contacts and asked to isolate for a week under previous rules.

However NSW Health revealed on Tuesday that cricketers will simply need to register a negative test to be able to continue playing rather than isolate for seven days - the same rule that applied in Melbourne during the Boxing Day Test.

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 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."

Brad Hazzard, pictured here speaking to the media in Sydney alongside Dominic Perrottet.
Brad Hazzard speaks to the media in Sydney alongside Dominic Perrottet. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Cricket Australia rejects calls to move fourth Ashes Test

On Tuesday, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley rejected calls to move the fourth Test away from Sydney.

"We just need to remain calm and get the facts," Hockley said.

"Everyone needs to follow the medical advice. On that basis, we keep going.

"We've been working on the plans for this tour for over six months.

"Our protocols are designed for absolutely this set of events. We've got strong protocols. We've got very comprehensive testing regimes."

Cricket Australia is also confident it can work with the Tasmanian government to ensure the fifth Test in Hobart goes ahead as planned.

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.

with AAP

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