Crowds to return to Australian Open from Thursday

Andrew Cummings
February 17, 2021

As Melbourne re-emerges from a five-day snap lockdown, fans can embrace life in the city once again by securing seats for blockbuster matches at the business end of the event, beginning with Thursday's women's singles semifinals before the first of the men's singles semis that evening.

On Wednesday morning, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the Stage 4 restrictions - which prevent residents from leaving their homes for any reason other than work, shopping for groceries, giving or receiving medical care and exercise - would be lifted.

Tickets for the last four days of the Australian Open were available for purchase on Wednesday ahead of the expected lifting of Victoria state's snap coronavirus lockdown.

Snap restrictions were ordered last Friday after a small outbreak of the more infectious United Kingdom coronavirus variant prompted fears Australia's successful battle to contain the pandemic could be undone.

The snap lockdown was imposed in Victoria on Friday after the spread of the United Kingdom variant of the virus linked to hotel quarantining travellers returning from overseas.

"I am very, very pleased to announce that just as we indicated on Friday, this will be a five day, short, sharp circuit breaker", Andrews announced.

"Because of you, we've been able to track, trace and corner this mutant and more infectious strain of the virus".

The latest five-day restrictions appear to have limited the cluster's growth to just six new cases since the lockdown began.

The return of fans to Melbourne Park will boost the Australian Open atmosphere even further as the 2021 tournament reaches a thrilling conclusion.

Andrews said meetings would be held later Wednesday to determine "a safe number" of attendees for the event.

"I'm very, very pleased to announce that the restrictions will come off, nearly all of them, at midnight tonight", said Andrews.

The news comes after Victoria recorded zero new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday.

Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton urged Victorians to be vigilant, saying people identified as close contacts of existing COVID-19 must see out their remaining quarantine periods.

But the problems with the Australian Open have underlined the difficulties of holding large sporting events during a pandemic, including the much more complex Tokyo Olympics, which are due to start in July after a year's delay.

Other reports by iNewsToday