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Sport-Melbourne COVID outbreak sends a chill through Australian leagues

MELBOURNE: An outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne has sent a chill through Australia's sports leagues, with an entire Australian Rules football club forced into isolation and two basketball teams relocating to a northern state.

Australia's second largest city reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as authorities reported five new cases of COVID-19, adding to four reported on Monday.

Players and staff at Australian Football League side Western Bulldogs were isolating until they return negative COVID-19 tests, the team said, after one of the club's staff went to a shopping centre deemed an exposure site by authorities.

"The Bulldogs cooperated fully with the advice, in the best interests of public health and safety," the team said in a statement.

"It is expected that players and staff will be able to return to training on Wednesday, pending the negative test results being received overnight."

National Basketball League (NBL) teams Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix will temporarily relocate to Queensland state, the NBL said.

United will remain in Queensland capital Brisbane until their game against Sydney Kings on Saturday, while Phoenix will travel to the state's northern city of Cairns later on Tuesday.

"We have faced a number of challenges this season and the current situation in Victoria is just another that we need to navigate," NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said in a statement.

"We thank both Melbourne United and the South East Melbourne Phoenix for their understanding and flexibility in very trying circumstances and hope we can get them home as soon as possible."

The latest outbreak ends Victoria's run of zero cases for nearly three months and prompted New Zealand to suspend quarantine-free travel with the state, while the neighbouring state of South Australia has imposed travel restrictions.

Victoria authorities have made face masks mandatory at indoor venues and restricted home gatherings but have so far held off banning spectators at sports events.

Victoria was the hardest-hit state during a second wave late last year, accounting for about 70per cent of total cases and 90per cent of deaths in Australia.

It forced more than a dozen Melbourne-based professional sports teams to relocate interstate for months on end to complete their seasons.

The country's second-most populous state only controlled the outbreak after one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: Reuters

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