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TSunday, Australia daylight saving time begins. Or some Australia. New South Wales and Victoria will join Tasmania in bringing East Coast watches forward. Queensland on the same coast will stubbornly stay in standard time for reasons lost in the bleak mists of history. Half an hour earlier for this draw, South Australia will be half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory will not drop 30 to 90 minutes behind Sydney. Western Australia will go from two hours behind the East to three. Then there’s the small town of Eucla halfway between Adelaide and Perth, which runs Central Australian Western Standard Time – 8 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Greenwich.
If you think this is confusing, try Australian and Covid laws. Since last year, the eight regional governments across the country have been constantly changing restrictions and enforcement on travel and quarantines as an outbreak in one place is suppressed or an outbreak in another. Narrow-minded and public health are two factors. The federal vaccine program whose absence has often been identified has preserved this necessity. Where politicians elsewhere talk inappropriately about living with the virus, much of Australia still has the luxury of living without it.
Which makes the prospect of a nationwide tour of the Ashes daunting for England’s players and staff who weigh it down. It doesn’t make sense for people from a virus-suffocated country to worry about traveling to a place that isn’t, but tourists in the fall can now live a burden-free life at home. Traveling to or around Australia nowadays is much less certain.
He made the abrupt decision during the week for the Tasmanian state team to drop a match in Brisbane and go home after four Covid cases were recorded in a city they had never been to before. It wasn’t about paranoia about Tasmanians getting infected, but their state could shut down borders without warning and require them to spend two weeks in quarantine before going home. It wasn’t worth the risk.
New South Wales and Victoria are relatively affected by the virus, with residents banned from traveling anywhere else along with some basic exceptions. Half a dozen Argentine rugby players found it out the hard way, after a day trip from Brisbane across the NSW border ended in arrest when they tried to return for today’s match against the Wallabies. The Australian Football League Grand Final, is held every year in Melbourne cricket Until the middle of the century, the land was moved to Perth so that the live audience could attend the peak of Australian base season.
The rest of the countries are open to each other, but this can change, and has happened time and time again, overnight. Queensland continues to record a few cases per day, which could quickly become much more so. Queensland is where England’s entourage is due to make landfall. Tourists do not feel comfortable that, after entering the country’s initial quarantine, they may be collected with another extension to move between countries.
But, as Australia’s Test captain Tim Payne pointed out to some of the objections, Ash will go ahead no matter which player decides to take a tour. The boards of Australia and England look after each other so reliably that they ignore everyone else except India, and there is so much money at stake that neither can mess with the schedule. If the ECB had to send the first eleventh from Grimsby, so be it.
The good news for these English players is that the situation and the restrictions are on track to ease before they arrive. As of the last day of September, Australia had exceeded 54% of people fully vaccinated nationwide, and is on track to reach 80% by early November. On Friday, the federal government announced approval for states that have reached this limit to resume international arrivals for vaccinated travelers with one week of home quarantine instead of two weeks in hotels. There is also a plan for Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia to open travel between them once the threshold is reached.
Which means England’s potential schedule would include arriving in Queensland in a quarantine resort with training permissions approved by that state government, spending roughly half the term in isolation as expected, starting at Gabba, then getting free travel to auditions in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
The Western Australian government has been the strictest in the country throughout the pandemic and is showing no signs of changing, but the result will not be requiring players to be further quarantined to enter the state, but rather excluding Perth from the itinerary. Having scored a solo win at the Ashes there back in 1978, few English cricketers would mourn it. If terms can be reached with Tasmania, Hobart is a potential alternative. If not, Canberra recently hosted its first test match and would jump at the chance.
None of it seems very stressful. In some ways, we are in a double reality: the terms of the round that have to be agreed now, between the two Houses and the players in England, have to assume that the current restrictions will remain in place. The new laws do not exist yet. However, things will almost certainly be different by late November. The England fears date back a few weeks, and were valid at the time. But if the era of the pandemic shows us one thing, it is how quickly anything can change.
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