A photo of AFL fans packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the concourse at Marvel Stadium last weekend has highlighted the seriousness of Melbourne's COVID-19 outbreak.
Victoria was plunged into a fourth lockdown on Thursday after a cluster in Melbourne's north expanded to 26 infections as 11 new cases were announced.
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As of Thursday morning, there were 79 exposure sites listed on the Health Department's website, spread across more than 30 Melbourne suburbs and regional Bendigo, Cohuna and Red Hill.
The MCG and Marvel Stadium are amongst the exposure sites, where AFL games were held with tens of thousands of fans on Sunday.
An infected person attended the Collingwood-Port Adelaide game at the MCG, while one was also at the North Melbourne-Essendon clash at Marvel Stadium later that same day.
News.com.au has since published a photo showing fans packed into a concourse at Marvel Stadium, standing side-by-side with virtually no physical distance between.
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) May 26, 2021
The photo highlights one of the major the reasons why Victoria was put back into seven-day lockdown as of midnight on Thursday.
Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the state will enter the "circuit breaker" lockdown.
"Unless something changes, this will be increasingly uncontrollable," he told reporters.
He added the spread of the outbreak was causing great concern, with more than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts.
While the lockdown could be shorter than seven days, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is doubtful.
"We have to ready ourselves for seven days of this lockdown," he said.
Prof Sutton said the Indian B1.617.1 variant of the virus that has caused the outbreak is particularly concerning.
"It really is rapid and that's led to the exponential increase (of contacts)," he said. "It's a very infectious strain ... it's not good."
The number of cases linked to the Whittlesea cluster rose to 26 - up from 15 on Wednesday.
The number of test results received in the 24 hours to midnight was 40,411 and there were long queues again on Thursday at test sites across Melbourne.
Professional sports events such as the weekend's AFL games in Melbourne will continue, but without crowds.
Adelaide and Richmond game moved to Sydney
Meanwhile, Richmond's match against Adelaide at the MCG has been moved to Sydney as the AFL scrambles to deal with implications of the lockdown.
Gold Coast's clash with Hawthorn will not be played in Darwin on Saturday as scheduled, although it could be moved to Metricon Stadium, the Suns' regular home venue.
The South Australian government closing its border to Victoria has created issues for Sunday's match between the Tigers and the Crows.
With Sydney due to play Carlton at the SCG on Sunday, Giants Stadium looms as the likely option for the relocated match between Richmond and Adelaide.
The Tigers will fly out of Melbourne on Thursday afternoon and are preparing to be away for an extended period, as they were during last year's premiership-winning season in Queensland.
"The collective view from our club is we quite enjoyed being away together (in 2020) and we were focused on the job at hand," Tigers assistant coach Adam Kingsley told SEN SA.
"It will pose some challenges to a lot of guys, myself included, but that's unfortunately the industry we're in at the moment.
"We need to take some extreme measures to try and protect it. One of these looks like it could be leaning towards a hub."
On Wednesday, strict restrictions were imposed on all Victorian-based clubs with players and staffers recommended to only leave their homes for playing, training and essentials.
Apart from the Tigers-Crows game, the other three matches scheduled for Victoria this weekend appear likely to go ahead - just without crowds.
More than 40,000 people were expected to attend Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, but the premiership contenders will now face off at an empty Marvel Stadium.
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