Athletes scramble as Victoria locks down

MELBOURNE • Australia's major sports leagues and Olympic hopefuls scrambled to make contingency plans yesterday, after the authorities announced a seven-day lockdown in the southern state of Victoria to contain an outbreak of a "highly infectious" Covid-19 strain.

Australia's second most populous state was locked down from 11.59pm yesterday after the authorities reported 12 new cases, bringing the Melbourne outbreak to 26.

Crowds are banned from sporting events in Melbourne, which has more than a dozen professional teams competing in top-flight leagues and all faced disruption and schedule changes.

Several Australian Rules football matches this weekend are set to be affected as states closed their borders to Victoria. The Australian Football League had said earlier that a spectator among the crowd of 33,000 at a match in Melbourne's Docklands Stadium last Sunday tested positive.

Super Rugby team Melbourne Rebels and the A-League's Melbourne City are also facing scheduling conflicts.

Athletics Australia (AA) moved to relocate Victoria-based athletes ahead of an Olympic warmup meeting on the Gold Coast next week.

"AA's high performance team started to relocate athletes to Queensland from Monday onwards, and are continuing to assist a number of athletes to move out of Melbourne to Queensland today before lockdown begins," AA said.

Swimming Australia said all of its Victoria-based swimmers had exited the state by Wednesday in the lead-up to the Olympic trials in Adelaide next month.

Victoria's acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne there was a danger the situation could get out of control.

"We're dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2021, with the headline 'Athletes scramble as Victoria locks down'. Subscribe