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The AFL has insisted it is fully prepared for the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne, with this week’s games expected to go ahead with crowds in attendance despite the MCG being declared an exposure site and several teams scrambling to fly out of Victoria earlier than scheduled.
After six new cases were reported on Wednesday, bringing the Whittlesea cluster to 15, Victoria’s acting premier James Merlino said he could not rule out the possibility of imposing further social restrictions.
Merlino said the next 24 hours would inform any decision, but as of Wednesday morning, all games taking place in Melbourne this week would go ahead as planned and with fans in the stands.
“The AFL is going ahead with crowds, subject to changes and masks,” Merlino said. “But there has been great engagement between the league, stadiums and public health team.
“This is subject to how we go over the next 24 hours. We have got a critical period in front of us, but right now, [there will be] games with crowds subject to restrictions.”
It emerged on Tuesday night that a person who attended Sunday’s Collingwood v Port Adelaide game at the MCG tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting Victorian government health officials to send text messages overnight to those fans who were in close proximity.
Fans seated near the person have been asked to take Covid-19 tests and self-isolate until a negative test is returned, while people in other parts of the MCG on Sunday have been asked to monitor for symptoms.
“The AFL and the MCC have prepared for this situation in multiple simulations, with contact information linked to ticketing data and QR codes,” an AFL statement read on Wednesday.
“The announcement is a reminder why the AFL and various governments worked to develop measures that prioritised the health and wellbeing of fans and allowed the speedy identification of all patrons attending each match in the event of a positive test.”
Amid the developing situation, three teams – Essendon, Carlton and Hawthorn – will depart Victoria earlier than scheduled for interstate matches, to avoid getting trapped in Melbourne should further restrictions be introduced.
Essendon will travel to Perth on Wednesday morning, Carlton will head to Sydney on Wednesday afternoon and Hawthorn aims to travel to Darwin on Thursday. All staff of the travelling clubs will be tested and minimise their movements until they leave.
The MCG will undergo extensive cleaning after each upcoming match played there and a deep clean of the identified zone is being undertaken “out of an abundance of caution”, the AFL said.
Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium is set to host a top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
Bulldogs players, who were tested after a staff member reported being at the Highgate shopping centre during an exposure period, returned negative results.
Ticketing for the next two rounds of games has already been paused by the AFL.
The NRL is keeping a watching brief on the situation in Melbourne, with this year’s State of Origin opener scheduled to take place at the MCG in under two weeks.
CEO Andrew Abdo said the league has contingency plans in place should the MCG be ruled out of hosting the match on 9 June, with Canberra, Perth and Adelaide shaping as alternative venue options.
“It’s early days,” Abdo said on Tuesday. “At this stage, we are monitoring the situation very carefully but if we have to increase the protocols [for players] we will and if we need to consider a contingency plan for where we play Origin I, we will.
“We are looking at several venues for that but we would have to see a significant increase in the number of community cases and the potential for lockdown in Victoria before we would consider that.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Crowds can attend Melbourne AFL games despite Covid outbreak and MCG virus alert | AFL