Melbourne enters new lockdown, barring Australian Open crowds

Australian Open

General view through the third spherical match between Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in Austrlian Open on February 12, 2021. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

SYDNEY—Australia’s second-most populous metropolis will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown, authorities mentioned on Friday, barring spectators for a lot of the Australian Open tennis event.

A recent COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine resort in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, reached 13 instances as of Thursday midnight, as authorities rushed to quash the unfold of the virus. All of these infections had been linked to the extremely contagious UK variant.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews introduced the lockdown for the state, beginning at midnight on Friday, calling it a “short, sharp circuit breaker” banning public gatherings, dwelling auctions, weddings and non secular gatherings.

“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,” Andrews informed reporters, noting the excessive transmission price of the UK variant.

Asked in regards to the Australian Open, which runs by way of Feb. 21, the premier mentioned the Grand Slam event, one the most important occasions within the nation’s sports activities calendar, was thought-about a office, topic to lockdown restrictions.

“There are no fans. There are no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace,” he mentioned. “The minimum number of staff for it to be run safely – not just for the virus but other reasons – will be there.”

The occasion had already been restricted to 50% of typical capability and was dogged by earlier complaints from some worldwide gamers, who had been pressured to spend crucial preparation time in quarantine.

The event will proceed with out crowds over the following 5 days with no followers allowed on the match websites, organizers mentioned. Spectators will be capable of attend video games scheduled for Friday, whereas those that had purchased tickets to restricted occasions will get a refund, they mentioned in an announcement.

All states and territories, besides New South Wales – which incorporates Sydney and is the nation’s most populous state – closed their borders to Victoria on Friday citing the excessive threat of transmission.

New South Wales, which on Friday recorded the twenty sixth day with no group instances, mentioned its borders with Victoria will stay open whereas it displays the state of affairs.

Victoria endured one of many world’s strictest and longest lockdowns final 12 months after an outbreak that killed greater than 800 within the state, the overwhelming majority of the nationwide demise toll.

The head of Australia’s enterprise foyer group expressed frustration on the recent lockdown, calling it a “bitter disappointment for the whole community”.

“This is the second lockdown caused by Victoria’s hotel quarantine system, it must not be as long and destructive as the last,” Business Council Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott mentioned. “We must get hotel quarantine working properly.”

More broadly, Australia has been among the many world’s most profitable international locations in dealing with the pandemic, largely due to decisive lockdowns and borders sealed to all however a trickle of vacationers. The nation has recorded some 22,200 group instances and 909 deaths.

But its quarantine resorts, the place all worldwide arrivals should spend two weeks, have been a weak hyperlink in its defenses, with the most recent Melbourne cluster one other instance.

Premier Andrews proposed tightening Australia’s citizen repatriation program to compassionate causes solely, a transfer that might get some help from different states which have had the UK pressure.

Ahead of the lockdown announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison supplied his authorities’s full help for Victoria’s selections on containing the outbreak.

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