No restrictions for SCG cricket crowds despite rising COVID-19 cases in Sydney

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The SCG will remain without crowd restrictions for the New Year’s Test and Big Bash matches despite rapidly increasing COVID-19 infections across Sydney.

A crowd of 12,000 is predicted for the Sydney Sixers’ clash with the Adelaide Strikers at the SCG on Tuesday night while up to 40,000 a day are expected for most days of the fourth Test starting on January 5.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said with the NSW Government focusing on hospitalisation rates, and not case numbers, there are currently no plans to reduce capacity at the SCG for the Sydney Test or for Big Bash games.

It comes after the acting Premier of Victoria, James Merlino, said on Sunday there would be no reduction of capacity for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted across NSW in mid-December, coinciding with the rapid spread of the more infectious Omicron strain of the virus, daily infection numbers have soared.

About 12,500 people have tested positive to the virus in the state over the previous six days, with cases above 2500 for a second successive day on Monday. The previous Sunday saw just 595 cases.

There are no plans for crowd restrictions for the fourth Ashes Test at the SCG.Credit:Getty Images

However, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday that the number of people in hospital and intensive care was less than three months ago during the city’s protracted lockdown because of high vaccination rates.

On September 21, 244 people were in intensive care compared to 33 people on Monday, with 26 of them unvaccinated, while 261 people were in hospital, up from 227 on Sunday but well below the 1266 people during this year’s peak.

“I completely accept that people are concerned. But it is our job as a government to provide confidence,” the Premier said at a press conference. “There will always be new variants of this virus. The pandemic is not going away. We need to learn to live alongside it.”

This was reiterated by the newly announced Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres.

Big crowds are expected for the Sydney Test.Credit:Getty

“Case numbers alone are not the trigger for us, hospitalisation rates and severity of illness are also factors,” Ayres told the Herald and The Age.

“If you were making decisions the way we did in 2020 or mid-2021 we would already be in lockdown and thousands of people would be out of a job with no Job Keeper and only 33 people in ICU.

“As COVID-19 changes so too must our policy responses. This is not an ideological approach, it’s an evidence-based approach.”

Australia, England and Big Bash players will be on level-four restrictions in Melbourne and Sydney for the next two Tests, preventing them from eating indoors or attending bars and only shopping by click and collect.

Players who want to stay at home or visit family or friends indoors must have regular COVID-19 tests and haircuts have also been banned.

The Sixers are also playing at home in December and January.Credit:Getty Images

Strikers’ coach Jason Gillespie told the Herald and The Age he trusted the medical advice.

“Naturally you see that [rising infection rates] on the news, and it raises your eyebrows, but I’m not a medical person,” Gillespie said. “I prefer to leave those discussions to experts.

“I’ve just had my booster and I’m double vaxxed. It’s a pretty nasty virus and I think it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Test players are on level three restrictions in Adelaide, where Australian Test captain Pat Cummins was ruled out of the second Test. He was forced to isolate for seven days after being deemed a close contact after he ate dinner at a restaurant the day before the Test.

Cummins was given permission to fly back to Sydney by chartered plane on Saturday after returning a negative COVID-19 test that would have allowed him to play in Melbourne or Sydney.

As an extra precaution Cricket NSW withdrew Sydney Thunder and Sixers players from Premier Cricket last Saturday. This came after two players were ruled out of the NSW Breakers’ team which played Victoria in Melbourne last Friday and because a club teammate tested positive for COVID-19.

They played in Sunday’s match after negative tests, with the Breakers winning both games to go to the top of the Women’s National Cricket League table.

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