Crowds for SCG Test an ‘unnecessary risk’ amid COVID-19 cluster in Greater Sydney

An epidemiology expert has claimed having crowds at the SCG for next week’s Test match could pose an “unnecessary risk” as the Greater Sydney’s coronavirus cluster grows.

After it was revealed there were seven new cases of COVID-19 in New South Wales on Saturday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian restricted outdoor gatherings to 2000 people.

With the third Test match between Australia and India scheduled to commence on Thursday, it therefore seemed incredibly unlikely the event could go ahead in Sydney.

However, Ms Berejiklian emphasised the SCG rules remain in place for the time being, and any changes to the 50 per cent capacity limit would be decided following a safety review of the venue.

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But speaking on ABC’s Weekend Breakfast, epidemiology expert Professor Raina MacIntyre explained why hosting up to 24,000 spectators at the New Year’s Test was “quite risky”.

“I think it is an unnecessary risk at this critical time,” Prof MacIntyre said on Sunday morning.

“It may also be a time when the cases are starting to increase because if there were transmissions on New Year’s Eve, we would be expecting to see a rise in cases from the end of this week over the following weekend.

“So the timing is also quite risky.”

Professor Raina MacIntyre.Source:Supplied

Prof MacIntyre is a researcher at the University of New South Wales, and has been studying pandemics and disease for more than 28 years.

Ms Berejiklian believes the SCG Test would provide a beneficial community morale boost, meaning the venue is currently exempt from the newly-introduced COVID-19 guidelines.

“Our health officials, police and event organisers will be doing a walk-through to go over the … COVID-safe plan,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Saturday.

“This is an example where the NSW government strategy is to keep jobs, to keep community morale and wellbeing while making sure we are COVID-safe.

“There are very stringent guidelines in that plan about making sure people stay within the zones they are required to stay in.

“It will be a very controlled and ticketed event, and the fact that people have to wear a mask when going to or from the event, public transport or otherwise, will also mitigate the risk.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks to the media.Source:News Corp Australia

“We appreciate what people might say about us continuing to hold those events, but also consider the thousands of jobs it keeps, consider the sense of normality it gives us.

“I recall some people were very upset when they heard we were continuing with the fireworks display, but … most of us felt a sense of relief there was something we could look forward to and something we could find a sense of normality through.”

However, the decision to proceed with the event has sparked significant backlash, with many social media users questioning why it was allowed to go ahead while other tough new rules have been introduced to curb the spread of the latest alarming coronavirus outbreak.

Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed at this stage masks would not be compulsory for spectators at the SCG. However, anyone travelling to the ground via public transport would be required to wear a mask.

I’m looking forward to watching the Third Test against India in Sydney, from home. NSW is on a knife-edge and the Government must reconsider allowing 24,000 people into the SCG during a pandemic. #nswpol

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