Basketball: Sport-AFL teams rush to depart Victoria amid Melbourne COVID outbreak


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Three Australian Rules football clubs will fly out of Victoria state early to manage travel restrictions as authorities battled to control an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Authorities reported six new cases in Victoria, bringing an outbreak stemming from the state capital Melbourne to 15.

Victoria reinstated restrictions on gatherings and made masks mandatory at indoor venues until June 4, while New Zealand paused its quarantine-free travel with the state for three days.

The Australian Football League (AFL) said Melbourne-based Essendon Bombers, Carlton Blues and Hawthorn Hawks had brought forward travel plans for interstate games “to best combat the evolving situation in Victoria”.

“All clubs will be tested and minimise their movements until they travel,” the AFL said in a statement.

Neighbouring states have banned travellers from Victoria who visited hotspots and ordered others to quarantine until they can return a negative test.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was added to a growing list of novel coronavirus hotspots after an infected person was among the crowd of some 23,400 who attended an AFL game at the stadium on Sunday.

Authorities were contacting thousands of spectators to ask them to get tested.

Officials said sports events would continue with crowds in Victoria but there might be attendance restrictions, depending on how the health situation evolves over the next 24 hours.

AFL team Western Bulldogs was forced into isolation on Tuesday after a staff member visited a hotspot but they were cleared to return to training on Wednesday after testing negative.

Two Melbourne-based National Basketball League teams relocated to northern Queensland state on Tuesday.

A protracted lockdown to control a second wave outbreak in Victoria last year forced more than a dozen Melbourne-based professional sports teams to play away from home for several months to complete their seasons.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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