Melbourne starts five-day virus lockdown, no spectators at Australian Open

Ross Houston
February 14, 2021

As boisterous crowds made way for deafening silence at the Australian Open on Saturday, players did not have to do too much adjusting as they abruptly switched back to the "new normal" of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old did not play in the 2021 Australian Open but partnered countryman Stafanos Tsitsipas in the ATP Cup against Austalia on February 3.

Even though Andrews urged people to "exercise good judgement" and not go out Friday night, hundreds of rowdy, boisterous fans packed into John Cain Arena for the match between local favorite Nick Kyrgios and third-seeded Dominic Thiem that ended close to 11 p.m. local time.

State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the measures after the highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 linked to Britain infected 13 people in Melbourne.

When asked about the decision to allow the tournament to continue while five millions of Victorian are suffering under lockdown he said people will "make their own judgements and have their own views". "It's been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here".

"It will be happening, but there'll be no one there watching it", he said.

For the duration of the lockdown, the players will be transported between a Melbourne Park "bubble" and their residences, where they will endure the same restrictions as everyone else. Spectators will be able to attend games scheduled for Friday, while those who had bought tickets to restricted events will get a refund, they said in a statement.

"I don't have advice to cancel the event on the basis that it's unsafe", he added, saying the latest cases had nothing to do with the tennis quarantine program.

An empty Garden Square is seen at the venue for the Australian Open championship in Melbourne this morning. "So.5 days? I have to stick around". The biggest daily attendance in the first four days was 21,010 on Thursday.

All players, staff and officials who arrived on charter flights for the tournament, a total of about 1,200 people, had to do a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.

But its quarantine hotels, where all worldwide arrivals have to spend two weeks, have been a weak link in its defences, with the latest Melbourne cluster another example.

Officials in Australia's state of Victoria mandated a five-day stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the area's growing number of coronavirus infections. Most of those were during a second deadly wave previous year when a hard lockdown was put in place in Melbourne.

Play had already started on day five, in front of fans, when the lockdown was announced.

Under the lockdown, Victoria residents must stay at home and can only leave for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping and caring for family.

The rules are the same that were imposed on Brisbane and Perth during their short lockdowns in recent weeks, Chief MInister Andrew Barr said.

In response to the outbreak, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have closed their borders to Victorian travellers, while the NSW border remains open.

The Australian Open has been plunged into further chaos after a Greek tennis player revealed he has tested positive to coronavirus.

Authorities say anyone who has been to the airport from 7 February should test and isolate until they get a negative result.

Other reports by iNewsToday