India cricketers test negative after bubble 'breach'

Sydney (AFP) –


India's team and support staff all tested negative to Covid-19 after five players apparently breached their bio-security bubble, officials said Monday, as capacity at the Sydney Cricket Ground was slashed over coronavirus concerns.

The quintet -- Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini -- were filmed dining inside a Melbourne restaurant on New Year's Day.

The Australian state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, is battling to stem a cluster of virus cases tied to a wider outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales.

In response, authorities require restaurant-goers to dine outdoors and maintain social distancing.

While the five were allowed to continue training, they were told to stay apart from the broader Indian squad, with the entire tour party tested on Sunday.

The Indian cricket board, which has not said whether the five will be punished, Monday issued a brief statement giving them the all-clear for Covid-19.

"Playing members of the Indian cricket team and support staff underwent a test for Covid-19 on January 3, 2021. All tests have returned negative results," it said.

Australia's team and staff were also tested and they too came back negative.

Both teams headed to Sydney Monday for the third Test starting Thursday, with the four-Test series level at 1-1.

They will play in front of a 25 percent capacity crowd -- around 10,000 - after it was slashed from 50 percent following a backlash on social media and from some experts, given the Covid situation in the city.

There are currently an estimated 273 active cases in Australia, although many are travellers in quarantine.

It means all tickets will be refunded and fans must re-apply.

Tony Shepherd, head of Venues NSW which manages the stadium, said significant measures had been taken to ensure the safety of fans.

"There are extensive protocols being enacted for the upcoming Test, including increased cleaning, customer service and security staff, along with dedicated social distancing marshals," he said.

The fourth and final Test is in Brisbane next week.