Australian Open to go without fans as ‘new kind of enemy’ forces Victoria to lock down

Authorities have actually determined 13 brand-new cases connected to a worker of a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, who evaluated favorable for the so-called UK coronavirus variation on Monday. 5 of those cases were determined in the previous 24 hr, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews stated at a press conference Friday.

Andrews that “this hyper-infectious variant is moving at hyper-speed,” and to stop it the federal government required to enact a brief, stringent lockdown so individuals do not unknowingly contaminate others prior to they understand they have actually contracted the infection themselves.

“We are facing a new kind of enemy. A virus that is smarter, and faster, and more infectious,” Andrews stated of the variation. “Until we have a vaccine, we need to do everything we can to keep this virus at bay.”

Australia has actually not yet started presenting coronavirus vaccines.

Dip Into the Australian Open, expert tennis’ very first Grand Slam of the year, will continue however without viewers. Tennis Australia, which arranges the occasion, stated it will enact its broadcast-only contingency strategy and will use fans refunds if they have tickets they can no longer utilize.

“Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” the company stated in a declaration.

Competition director and CEO of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley stated gamers would live and contend in a biosecure “bubble” throughout the lockdown.

“The players will compete in a bubble form not dissimilar to what they’ve been doing right throughout the year,” he informed press reporters.

“In fact, this was the first event they played in front of crowds and now for the next five days they will continue to play and continue to compete.

“So those that will be permitted on website will be the gamers just and their direct assistance groups, along with those employee that are not able to do their work from house.”

American Serena Williams, right, serves to Russia's Anastasia Potapova during their third round match on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday.
Andrews acknowledged just how gut-wrenching these restrictive measures will be to the people of Victoria, who endured one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns last year. For months, Victorians have been enjoying normal, coronavirus-free lives thanks to their earlier sacrifices.

Tennis fans told CNN that attending and hosting the Open, one of Melbourne’s biggest events of the year, was something residents felt they had earned after so many weeks of vigilance. People may still be able to attend the tournament if the lockdown is not extended past 5 days, but the Open’s middle weekend is usually its most popular.

“Today harms. Victorians understand, much better than anybody, simply how deeply,” he said.

Andrews said people will only be allowed to leave their home for four reasons: shopping for necessities; care and caregiving; exercise; and work, if it is deemed essential by the government.

Shoppers and those going for exercise will only be allowed to travel within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their home, unless they do not live that close to stores.

Most retail businesses will be forced to close, besides essential stores like supermarkets and pharmacies. Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to offer take-away service. And gatherings at private homes and in public are prohibited.

“By restricting our motion, we restrict the prospective spread of the infection,” Andrews stated.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews waits to speak at a news conference on Friday in Melbourne.

The Open’s hurdles

Victoria’s lockdown is the latest in a series of hurdles organizers of the annual tennis tournament have faced in their efforts to put on a successful event during a pandemic.

The tournament was originally delayed by three weeks, and the government mandated that players coming from overseas would be required to quarantine for 14 days. The initial plan had been to allow players in quarantine five hours a day to practice, but several people linked to the Open tested positive for the virus while in quarantine — forcing 72 players to undergo a more intense quarantine in which they were not allowed to leave their rooms for the full 14 days.

Then, with just days to go before the start of the tournament, a security guard in one of Melbourne’s quarantine hotels tested positive for the virus — forcing his close contacts back into isolation until they were cleared of infection.

That included more than 500 Australian Open players and staff, all of whom tested negative, allowing the tournament to continue as planned.

Organizers had expect up to 400,000 fans to attend the tournament this year in a socially distanced manner, around half the number that were at last year’s competition, and fans came out in force on Monday for the first day — relishing in the fact that they are some of the few people on the planet able to attend live sports during the pandemic.

As news of the snap lockdown broke on Friday, many games were already underway with fans getting their last glimpse of action for at least five days.

Notably, Serena Williams kept her hopes of a record-equaling 24th grand slam title alive after surviving a minor scare.

The American saved two set points in her match against Anastasia Potapova but recovered to win in straight sets 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Speaking of the lockdown after her match, Williams said: “It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough couple of days for I believe everybody. However we’ll ideally survive it.”

Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka battled past Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the tournament.

Spectators in the crowd watch the Women's Singles second round match between Coco Gauff of the United States and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during day four of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Thursday.
What happens next could have major implications for the delayed Summer Olympics in Tokyo, as the Australian Open had been mooted as a model, albeit a smaller one, for how to safely host a sporting event with competitors arriving from around the world.

Unlike Australia, however, Japan is struggling to cope with rising coronavirus case numbers. Cases have more than doubled in the past two months to more than 406,000, stretching Japan’s medical system to the brink despite the fact that the country has the most hospital beds per capita in the developed world.

Though Japan’s leaders have actually sworn the Games will be held, barriers are installing. The general public stays opposed to hosting the occasion and Japan’s Organizing Committee requires to discover a brand-new leader to change Yoshiro Mori, who is stepping down amidst the furor triggered by sexist remarks he made recently.

CNN’s Chandler Thornton, Angus Watson, Ben Westcott and Paul Devitt added to this report

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.