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Cricket Australia has halved the number of spectators allowed through the SCG gates for the Sydney Test due to concerns over the city’s Covid-19 outbreak.
Acting New South Wales premier John Barilaro has also urged country cricket fans to stay away in a bid to stop coronavirus spreading to regional parts of the state.
Australia’s third Test against India is due to proceed as planned from this Thursday, and the venue was due to operate at 50% of its usual 48,000 capacity on each day.
But on Monday CA announced that capacity would be reduced to 25%, with the match to be reticketed to include a revised socially distanced seating plan. All current ticket-holders will receive a full refund.
“In response to the public health situation in NSW, we are working closely with Venues NSW and NSW Health to put appropriate biosecurity measures in place for our staff, players, match officials, broadcasters and fans to ensure we play the third Test at the SCG safely,” interim CA chief executive Nick Hockley said in a statement.
“Reducing the capacity of the venue is crucial in achieving social-distancing requirements, and we sincerely thank ticket-holders for their patience, as we process refunds today, reconfigure the SCG seating plan to deliver these social distancing measures and go back on sale.”
On Monday morning the president of the Australian Medical Association, Omar Khorshid, said making masks compulsory at the SCG would be safer than the current rules but given the concerns over the level of transmission through the Berala bottle shop cluster, the fact crowds were allowed at all constituted an “unnecessary risk to the health of the New South Wales people”.
“If that was going on at the Sydney Cricket Ground, whether it be at the bar, the toilet or the turnstile, you can only imagine how many people would be exposed to the virus,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Whether it be because you have a more transmissible version of the virus, like the UK strain, or whether it be because you’ve got a super-spreader, potentially having no symptoms and spreading the virus all over the ground.
“The safe thing to do is actually to say ‘Look, we are in a health emergency here, it’s time to make decisions on the basis of health rather than the economy and sport and all these things that we want to get back to normal.’
“It’s just the wrong decision and we are certainly calling on the NSW government to re-look at this question.”
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, acknowledged authorities could not be sure no one with the virus would attend the SCG, “but what we are trying to do in our public health strategy is making sure that you don’t have a super-spreading event”.
The concern is heightened given wet weather is forecast for the opening day.
“If it is wet weather, what does that look like?” Barilaro said. “Will people be leaving their seats and congregating under the shelter? They’re the things we’ve got to deal with. What do we do about mask-wearing and maybe going up to the bar? Transport on the way in – I know transport have increased the number of options to get to the SCG. But again, they’re the things we’re working with the Trust.”
The Indian players Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini have returned negative Covid results after the quintet were investigated by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for allegedly breaking protocols by eating inside at a Melbourne restaurant.
All other playing members and support staff from both India and Australia’s camp also underwent tests and all returned negative.
The mission to keep the fourth Test at the Gabba in Brisbane was given a boost with confirmation players will not need to quarantine in their own hotel room.
India’s frustrations over the planned quarantine conditions in Queensland had thrown the venue for the series finale into doubt on Sunday, with the tourists reportedly wanting a move from Brisbane.
That was met with a firm resistance by Australia’s players, who see the Gabba as their fortress and none of whom would remember seeing the team lose a Test there.
At the heart of India’s issues is believed to be a frustration that they have already served a 14-day quarantine on entry to the country, and do not want to endure it again.
The tourists were particularly put off by any suggestion they would need to isolate in their own hotel rooms, only allowed to leave to go the ground to train or play.
But while Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said the state would not bend rules given they were coming from a Covid-19 hotspot in Sydney, players could mix inside the hotel.
“They will be confined to the hotel. We have worked with them they can have bubbles within that hotel,” Young said.
With the series locked at 1-1, both teams were due to leave Melbourne for Sydney on Monday.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Crowd capacity for SCG Test between Australia and India reduced to 25% | Sport