England and Australia’s third Ashes Test WILL continue as both teams receive negative Covid-19 results ahead of the third day in Melbourne – but two more cases among staff and family members take tally to six for the tourists
- The latest round of Covid testing produced only two more positive cases
- It means England’s third Ashes Test with Australia is set to go ahead as planned
- Six of England’s travelling party – including staff and family – have tested positive
- Players on both sides came back negative during the latest round of PCR tests
The Ashes were set to continue after a fresh round of PCR tests for both teams and their families on Monday night produced only two more positive Covid diagnoses – both within the same family group that was already isolating after returning a positive result on Monday morning.
Cricket Australia and the ECB had been waiting anxiously for the results of the tests after four members of England’s touring party tested positive for the virus before play on the second morning of the third Test at Melbourne.
All the players on both sides came back negative, though the two new positive tests takes the total number of infected cases in the England camp to six, made up of three support staff and three family members. In all, England’s entourage is thought to number between 60 and 70.
Joe Root’s England are set to see their third Ashes Test against Australia go ahead as planned
A statement issued by Cricket Australia read: ‘Players from the Australian and England teams all had PCR Covid-19 Tests after play yesterday and all results have come back negative.
‘The families of both sets of players also had PCR tests yesterday and all returned a negative test.
‘The England team’s support staff and their family members who tested positive after PCR tests yesterday are in isolation. Play in the third Vodafone men’s Ashes Test match resumes at the MCG at 10.30am today.’
Family members were due to be retested once more on Tuesday, but for the time being the series will continue as planned, with the fourth Test due to start in Sydney on January 5, and the fifth in Hobart on January 18.
Play was set to resume on time on the third day at the MCG, with Australia well placed to go 3-0 up and regain the Ashes. The players and backroom staff , meanwhile, will be tested over the next few days.
‘We’ve stepped up the safety protocols around the dressing-room, wearing masks and keeping distance whenever possible as well,’ said England seamer Jimmy Anderson, who took four for 33 as Australia were bowled out for 267 on day two.
Uncertainty had surrounded the start of the second day just as England were about to make the short journey to the MCG.
The England camp were waiting on Covid test results following positives in the family group and there were two more positives on Monday – but all the players remained negative
‘We got on the bus at the usual time at the hotel and then got told to get off it,’ said Anderson. ‘Then all the lads went back to have lateral flows to make sure we were okay.
England have abandoned two tours since the start of the pandemic – in Sri Lanka and South Africa, both in 2020 – but they will do everything they can to keep the Ashes show on the road, not least because of the huge broadcasting sums involved.
And CA’s English chief executive Nick Hockley was bullish when he was asked about the threat to the series. ‘Both playing groups have been fantastic in observing the protocols,’ he said. ‘This is a sign of the times but this is what the precautions are for.
England are determined to keep the Ashes show on the road, despite humiliating losses
‘We are being extra vigilant as there are increasing cases in the community but I don’t think the tour is in doubt. We’ll do everything we can to make sure we can carry on.’
The current Ashes schedule remains unchanged – with the New Year’s Test in Sydney set to begin on January 5, followed by the series finale in Hobart from January 14.
Both teams are due to share a charter flight from Melbourne to New South Wales at the conclusion of the current match and will have exclusive access to a hotel in Sydney.
There are likely to be ongoing discussions between the respective boards’ governing restrictions around player movement, with protocols currently at ‘level 4’ which stops short of a dreaded ‘bubble’ environment but does not allow individuals to eat or shop indoors.
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