After the Victoria State government imposed a lockdown in Melbourne on Saturday due to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantined hotel, the Australian Open tennis tournament will continue but without a crowd at least for five days. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday said that he does not advise canceling the event on the basis that it is unsafe as the latest case had no relation with the upcoming tennis quarantine program.
The officials also said that the tennis tournament will be organised under the Covid-19 protocols. A total of about 1,200 people including players, staff and other officials, who have arrived for the tournament, had to do a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. According to the reports, out of those 1,200 people, 72 were sent into a strict lockdown as they were speculated to be in close contact with passengers in the charter flights who tested positive for the coronavirus after landing in Australia.
Ahead of the tournament, the organisers said, "Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVID safe protocols in place. We are notifying ticket holders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February." [Sic.]
Andrews had made a visit to the senior cabinet minister and other federal and state government leaders health officials to discuss the new guidelines and SOPs for the Grand Slam after the sudden imposed lockdown. Ever since the lockdown is imposed across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian Open was the first Grand Slam tournament in a year to allow sizeable crowds. Earlier, due to the Covid outbreak, the US Open Wimbledon was cancelled. Also, French Open did not allow spectators in the tournament.
Andrews said in his statement, "February 8 to 21 Australian Open could continue because these people are at their workplace. It will be happening, but there’ll be no one there watching it. I don’t have advice to cancel the event on the basis that it’s unsafe. If it was a longer-term prospect — more than five days — things might well be different. We must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months." He added that the measures were a short, sharp circuit breaker so that the state can avoid that severe infection that may be caused by the new strain (highly contagious UK variant) of the deadly coronavirus.
Initially, the Australian government had allowed up to 30,000 people daily at Melbourne Park, or about 50% of capacity. However, the state announced a five-day lockdown minute before midnight local time imposing the new restrictions. The local residents are restricted to stay home except for essential commodities. On Thursday night, the cluster of Covid-19 cases reached 13 linked to hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport after 5 new cases emerged.