MELBOURNE: Australia's Victoria state has included professional athletes in a vaccination mandate that will require about 1.25 million "authorised workers" to have two COVID-19 shots by the end of November.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the health order on Friday as the southern state grapples with an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
The categories of authorised workers released by the Victoria government include "professional or high-performance sportsperson, workers that support the safe running of that person’s professional sport" and broadcasters.
Authorised workers must have their first vaccine shot by Oct. 15 and their second by Nov. 26 or face being banned from their workplaces.
"Ultimately, if you want to come to work and you’re on the authorised list, you need to have your first jab by (Oct 15),” Andrews told reporters as Victoria announced 1,143 new local COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Victoria is Australia's first state to introduce such a sweeping vaccine mandate, though vaccination was made compulsory for workers in aged care last month across the country.
Victoria is home to dozens of professional teams in soccer, cricket, Australian Rules football and rugby, and is also a base for high performance hubs in tennis, golf, athletics and other sports.
It was unclear whether the mandate would extend to athletes visiting from other states or overseas.
England's cricket team is to tour Melbourne for the Boxing Day test on Dec 26 during the Ashes, while the Australian Open tennis Grand Slam at Melbourne Park draws hundreds of international players.
Andrews said he would be surprised if England's Ashes squad would be allowed to enter the country unless all their players and staff were fully vaccinated. The first test starts in Brisbane on Dec 8.
"I don't issue passports or visas ... but I think it is highly unlikely that the Commonwealth government will be letting anybody into this country that has not been double-vaxxed, certainly in the medium term," he said.
"That might change over time."
England's cricket board (ECB) said they expect their travelling party for the Ashes to be fully vaccinated.
"Selection will be confirmed in due course," a spokesman told Reuters.
Governing body Cricket Australia (CA) said every nationally contracted cricketer, male and female, were already fully vaccinated and 98 per cent of domestic professionals had received one shot.
"Virtually every single professional player will be fully vaccinated by the end of this month," CA said in a statement.
The Australian Football League, the governing body for the top flight of Australian Rules football, said it was waiting for "formal government directions" on the next steps.