July 14, 2020 / 4:37 AM / a month ago

Back into the bubble: NRL cracks down amid COVID-19 surge

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) ordered teams to adopt tighter biosecurity protocols on Tuesday following a surge of COVID-19 infections in the country’s southeast.

FILE PHOTO: Players sanitise their hands as the South Sydney Rabbitohs of the National Rugby League (NRL) train amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Redfern Oval in Sydney, Australia, May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The announcement came as Victoria state reported 270 new cases and neighbouring New South Wales ramped up social distancing restrictions amid a cluster of infections linked to a pub in western Sydney.

The 12 teams based in NSW and the Australian Capital Territory would revert back to the strict “bubble” conditions the league enforced when it resumed on May 28, the NRL said.

That will mean players and staff will no longer be allowed to visit cafes, restaurants, pubs, beaches and golf courses, while restrictions on home visitors also return.

“We won’t take any risks with our players and the community,” league boss Peter V’landys said in a statement.

“All our decisions are based on the data and we’ve said from the start, if the data changes then we will be proactive and take the necessary action required.”

Four teams based in northeastern Queensland state, including Melbourne Storm who relocated north from Victoria, will remain under current restrictions.

Queensland reported one new case of COVID-19 from a returned traveller at a quarantine hotel on Monday and none on Tuesday.

The NRL had plans to base all of the league’s 16 teams in Queensland if required, Australian media reported on Tuesday.

A surge of infections in Victoria in recent weeks prompted the top flight soccer and Australian Rules leagues to move teams out of the state to allow their seasons to continue.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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