Australian Open to Continue Without Crowds Due to Lockdown
The event, the first Grand Slam of the season, had already been limited to 50% crowd capacity.
The Australian Open will continue with its games as per schedule however crowds will not be allowed for at least another five days after the Victoria state government imposed a lockdown beginning Saturday in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantined hotel.
A cap of 30,000 fans per day -- around 50 per cent of the usual attendance figure -- had been enforced since the year's first grand slam began on Monday.
The women's final is scheduled for Saturday evening next week, and the men's decider for the Sunday.
"Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVID safe protocols in place," organisers said in a statement on Friday.
"We are notifying ticket holders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February."
A fresh COVID-19 cluster that has been linked to a quarantined hotel in Melbourne reached 13 cases as of Thursday midnight and authorities rushed to quash the spread of the virus. Those infections include the highly contagious UK variant.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday announced a five-day, state-wide lockdown starting a minute before midnight local time, imposing new restrictions that restrict residents to their homes except for work, to shop for essential supplies, care or caregiving, and limited exercise.
"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 told reporters.
Asked about the Australian Open, which runs through 21 February, Andrews said the event was considered a workplace, subject to lockdown restrictions.
"There are no fans. There are no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace," he said. "The minimum number of staff for it to be run safely - not just for the virus but other reasons - will be there."
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