Virus shuts down major Vic events, sport

Christine McGinn and Marnie Banger
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MOTOR RACING F1 GRAND PRIX

The Australian Grand Prix will not go ahead this weekend in Melbourne as COVID-19 cases rise

Victoria's status as the nation's sporting capital is taking a hit from the coronavirus, with the Australian Grand Prix cancelled and AFL games to be played in empty stadiums.

The developments come as another nine people in Victoria are confirmed as testing positive to COVID-19.

The new cases bring the state's total number of infected people to 36 and include the first person who caught it without travelling overseas or having contact with a confirmed case.

The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled due to the virus just as its gates were about to open in Melbourne on Friday.

McLaren had already withdrawn from the season opener after a team member tested positive for COVID-19.

"We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund," a joint statement from the motorsport's governing body, Formula 1, and Australian Grand Prix Corporation read.

The AFL season will start as planned next Thursday night at the MCG but fans will not be able to watch the games at the stadium, the AFL confirmed on Friday.

Round five of the AFLW on Friday night in Geelong went ahead with spectators but after that, no fans will be allowed to attend matches until further notice.

There has also been widespread cancellation of events including The Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Saturday's last day of the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

It came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised people not to go ahead with non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, starting from Monday.

Despite the restriction, RSL Victoria confirmed that ANZAC Day services would still go ahead with some restrictions on crowds likely, and it would re-assess its plans.

Victoria's health department confirmed the nine new cases include six men and three women aged between 20 and 70, one of whom is the McLaren team member.

Seven of the new cases have a history of international travel but one of them has no history of travel or contact with a confirmed case, making them the state's first case of community transmission.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the community transmission was among the factors that prompted his advice not to allow spectators at the Grand Prix.

The latest cases are all recovering in isolation and the health department has confirmed several new exposure sites.

They include Qantas flights QF430 and QF459 between Melbourne and Sydney on Monday, Mary Miller Cafe in Fitzroy North at lunchtime on Tuesday, No. 19 cafe in Ascot Value on Tuesday morning and Emirates flight EK0406 from Dubai to Melbourne.