Australia’s second-largest city is working to contain the latest outbreak, with 15 cases identified so far. Victoria state has already tightened restrictions on gatherings and ordered people to wear masks indoors and on public transport until June 4. New Zealand has also suspended its non-quarantine travel agreement with the state.
Officials said on Wednesday that one of the cases was among a crowd of around 23,400 people who watched a game on Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Collingwood and Port Adelaide.
The Australian Football League or AFL said fans sitting near the positive case are now required to self-isolate until they are tested negative, as health officials review the footage the security camera to determine if others had also been affected.
The former Olympic Stadium, with a capacity of 100,000 seats, is among a growing number of sites, including supermarkets, cafes, pubs and shopping centers known to have been visited by people later diagnosed with COVID-19. State officials regularly update the list with the date and time the person attended the scene and the potential risk to others who were there.
The new cases have been attributed to a variant of the virus first identified in India found in an overseas traveler who allegedly contracted the virus during mandatory hotel quarantine in Adelaide, but officials have yet to find out how the coronavirus spread in the community at large. .
Australia has successfully tackled past outbreaks with rapid contact tracing, local closings and strict social distancing rules, helping to keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low compared to other developed countries. It has recorded just over 30,000 cases and 910 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Victoria was hit hard by a second wave of COVID-19 last year, which was only brought under control after a strict four-month lockdown.
AFL games scheduled for Melbourne this weekend are currently allowed to play with fans up to 85% capacity, but government officials have warned there could be more restrictions on public events .
“We are concerned about the number and type of exhibition venues and the next 24 hours will be critical if we are to make any further changes,” Acting Victoria State Premier James Merlino said.
Victoria had not recorded any locally acquired coronavirus cases for about three months before the last cases.
Despite Australia’s success in tackling the virus, the ruling Conservative government has come under fire for repeated failures of the quarantine system and a slow vaccine delivery schedule.
The country has so far administered around 3.7 million doses of immunization to a population of 25 million, but hopes to complete its vaccine rollout by the end of the year.