By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Australia’s cricket board said on Wednesday it had asked authorities about the timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of its planning for the South Africa tour, amid debate over whether athletes should be given priority access in the rollout.
Australia named a squad on Wednesday for the three-test tour which is expected to kick off later next month, though dates and venues are yet to be confirmed.
South Africa has recorded more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and 41,000 deaths, out of more than 3.4 million cases and 86,000 deaths in Africa.
Australia approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use on Monday and begins its vaccine rollout in February.
“We obviously sought some clarification on the vaccine timeline here in Australia, just to understand how that would overlay with our tours,” Cricket Australia executive Ben Oliver told reporters in a video conference.
“To clarify that … the priority is making sure our group can go on tour and return back to Australia safely, and we’re doing everything we can around that.”
The chairman of the Australian cricketers’ union told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper this week it would not be “morally defensible” for the players to “jump the queue” for the vaccine ahead of higher risk groups.
England’s one-day international series in South Africa was postponed in December after an unnamed South Africa player and two hotel staff members contracted COVID-19 inside the teams’ biosecure hub.
A new COVID-19 variant that has emerged in South Africa and appears significantly more transmissible than previous variants has raised doubts about Australia’s tour going ahead.
Oliver said there were a number of “key considerations” that the Australian and South African boards needed to resolve before the tour could be confirmed.
“The critical thing is we work with Cricket South Africa to establish the appropriate biosecurity protocols to sit around a tour like this,” he added.
“(We’re) as confident as you can be in the middle of a pandemic. Obviously it’s a very fluid situation.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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