Cricket-Australia 'flexible and practical' for Ashes - minister


FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Ashes test match - Australia v England - SCG, Sydney, Australia, January 8, 2018. England's captain Joe Root has a drink during a break in the fifth day of the fifth Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian government has been "flexible and practical" to ensure the Ashes can go ahead but the fate of the series lies in England's hands, health minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will decide this week whether the proposed arrangements in Australia are sufficient for the Ashes tour to go ahead.

England captain Joe Root and other players have expressed doubts about the tour due to "bubble fatigue" and concerns their families will not be able to travel with them due to Australia's strict COVID-19 protocols.

Hunt said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and sports minister Richard Colbeck had been working with their British counterparts to deliver the series, which starts on Dec. 8 in Brisbane.

"Ultimately, it's always in the hands of the touring party, but we've been working to be flexible and practical," Hunt told Sky News Australia on Tuesday.

"On the one hand, make sure that we have safety arrangements for Australia. On the other hand, to be practical and flexible to give that touring party every chance of coming here and to have the Ashes played this summer."

The five-test series pours about A$200 million ($145.68 million) into Cricket Australia (CA) coffers through broadcast, sponsorship and ticketing, local media have reported.

CA has been negotiating with authorities and the ECB over travel conditions and whether players' families can visit during the Christmas and New Year period.

"We have had regular and positive discussions with the ECB over the past six months on providing conditions which will allow players from both teams to perform at their best during the Ashes summer," CA said in a statement.

"The health and wellbeing of both squads while ensuring the tour proceeds in a safe manner is a priority and we especially thank our government partners for all their support in this regard."

Australia has strict limits on international arrivals and charges people thousands of dollars to isolate in designated quarantine hotels for a mandatory 14 days, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Morrison said last week authorities would lift travel curbs and allow fully vaccinated people to quarantine at home for shorter periods from next month when the proportion of adults who have had two vaccine shots is expected to reach 80%.

International tourists are not expected to be able to travel to Australia until next year, however.

"We are also buoyed by rising vaccination rates and an evolving approach to the pandemic in Australia," CA added.

($1 = 1.3729 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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