Aussie rules game postponed after player fails COVID-19 test

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Australian Football League has postponed a game between Essendon and Melbourne because a player who recently returned from Ireland has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Australian rules AFL competition was into the second weekend of matches after restarting in the wake of the shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said Essendon player Conor McKenna tested positive on Saturday, a day before the scheduled game against Melbourne, but remained asymptomatic.

Other matches will continue in the league.

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McLachlan said McKenna was the only positive case after all Essendon’s players and staff were tested.

McKenna returned from Ireland last month and self-isolated for two weeks according to Australia’s COVID-19 protocols before returning to full practice.

McLachlan said McKenna had been tested five times while in hotel quarantine after arriving back in Australia and had returned negative results each time.

All players are required to complete a COVID-19 test 24 hours before each match.

League officials notified the health department of the positive case and were working with the authorities to do contact tracing. All Essendon players and staff have been told to isolate until the contact tracing is completed.

“We said at the outset of this crisis that we would make all decisions based on medical advice and our priority remains the health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community,” McLachlan told a news conference Saturday. “We need to do the right thing and the right thing for our club and the wider community is to postpone this match.”

The AFL case was announced the same day as Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state is set to re-impose household restrictions for three weeks from Monday after recording double-digit increases in COVID-19 cases for a fourth consecutive day.

Andrews said Victoria recorded 25 new cases on Saturday, the biggest daily increase in two months, forcing a delay to further easing of restrictions.

Victoria state, headquarters for the AFL, has accounted for 19 of Australia’s 102 deaths from COVID-19, and almost 1,800 of the country’s 7,411 confirmed infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The AFL and the National Rugby League — the two biggest of Australia’s four major football competitions — restarted after declining rates of coronavirus infections nationally.

Soccer’s A-League and Super Rugby are set to restart next month.

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