Virus expert blasts Scott Morrison over 'dangerous' footy call

The prime minister was slammed on Friday morning after seemingly encouraging people to keep attending mass gatherings as coronavirus continues to spread in Australia.

Top infection control expert Bill Bowtell said Scott Morrison's stance was dangerous, and he couldn’t understand why there hadn't been a blanket ban on large, public events.

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“Facts and evidence dictate that these mass gatherings should not take place,” the professor, from the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity, has told the ABC.

“We must bring down the rate of new infections of coronavirus in this country. And we must do so in the next hours and days.”

He said the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne should be cancelled, along with NRL and AFL matches, and even Anzac Day events.

Over 21,000 fans attended the NRL season opener. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

He made the comments before Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said spectators would be banned from this weekend's Grand Prix, before the event was formally cancelled.

Cricket Australia has moved to ban spectators from Australia's one-day series against New Zealand and will hold the series behind closed doors.

And the AFL has said it's considering its position amid the outbreak.

Prof Bowtell expressed disbelief after the prime minister vowed to attend an NRL match this weekend, as Finance Minister Mathias Cormann proclaimed he would be happy to go to the Grand Prix.

“Are you really seriously suggesting that ministers should say to the Australian people it's business as usual, and go to the Grand Prix?" he said.

“The Grand Prix should be cancelled. The NRL season should be cancelled. Anzac Day, there should be a big question about whether those ceremonies should be called off,” Bowtell said.

“The Prime Minister can’t know, nobody can know who in that crowd at the NRL has coronavirus.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under fire. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

The prime minister refused on Friday morning to talk about blanket bans on large events, telling reporters that was a matter for event organisers.

He's repeatedly said the government is relying on the best medical advice, and so far that advice had not recommended shutting down large gatherings.

"Each of these organisations will make their own decisions about these events and the states themselves will act on the best medical advice in relation to these issues," Mr Morrison said as he headed into virus-focused COAG talks in Sydney.

"But I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow afternoon.”

That stance changed on Friday afternoon after Morrison announced the government will be advising against organised non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.

The announcement came after the country’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, advised the Council of Australian Governments to reconsider letting the events go ahead.

Cricket bosses take action

Meanwhile, crowds will be banned from Australia's one-day cricket series against New Zealand with the series to be played behind closed doors because of coronavirus.

Cricket Australia took the drastic step on Friday, just hours before the series opener at the SCG.

Another match is due for the SCG on Sunday, before another game in front of an empty stadium at Blundstone Arena in Hobart next Friday.

A women's tour of South Africa for next week has also been suspended, making it the first major international cricket series affected since the outbreak of the virus.

A young spectator wears a face mask while looking on during the Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs clash. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

“We have taken strong action today in the face of an unprecedented public health issue," Cricket Australia boss Kevin Roberts said.

“We believe this is the right decision to minimise the risk of public exposure to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on Thursday.

“We understand that these changes to our schedule will impact many, but we hope our community will understand that the public health and safety issues caused by the coronavirus must take priority over sport at this time.

“This is not an issue specific to cricket.”

With Yahoo Sports Staff