There will be no fans at the Australian Open for at least the next five days after the Victorian Government imposed a snap coronavirus lockdown, which begins at 11:59 AEDT. It is the third time that Melbourne will be heading into a coronavirus lockdown this year after a cluster of cases emerged at a hotel.
The hard lockdown has been imposed by the Victorian Government, in part because the positive tests revealed the cases originated from the UK, where a more contagious variant of the virus is spreading. The lockdown has come five days after the Australian Open began at Melbourne Park and the tournament is currently midway through the third round. The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today that professional sporting events could go ahead, but without spectators.
As a result, whilst the courts at Melbourne Park will be occupied, the stands will not. Fortunately, the Australian Open organisers have made it clear full refunds will be available for people who have tickets for the period of lockdown. Nonetheless, it is a blow to the tournament, which had been operating with a limit of 30,000 fans per day, organised around three zones to ensure that social distancing regulations were followed.
Spectators were also required to wear masks indoors, including if the court roofs were closed, and when moving around the grounds, but were free to sit without masks in the stands. As it stands, tournament director Craig Tiley has ruled out the cancellation of Australian Open, unless the situation dramatically changes, with the lockdown imposed today part of contingency plans that were already in place if an issue such as this arose.
But although play will continue, with the competitors continuing to abide by the lockdown restrictions with players and their direct support teams allowed onsite only when essential, the absence of fans will surely be keenly felt, particularly after they contributed to such a vibrant start at the first Major of 2021.
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