Australian Open to continue without crowds during Melbourne shutdown

Boris Becker

The campaign ended on Friday for home hero Nick Kyrgios, who considerably raised the decibel levels at Melbourne Park during his three rounds, before the stands were vacated. "It will be happening, but there'll be no one there watching it".

Fans also were allowed to return to stadiums, and this year's Australian Open was more or less the world's first major sporting event to allow spectators in any significant fashion with a daily allowance of 30,000 fans, or about 50 percent of Melbourne Park's capacity. "It will allow us to protect Queenslanders and to support our public health officers doing that contract tracing work and not adding to their workload, while they are racing to get to those contacts", Dr Miles told reporters.

Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, said the tennis venue would be considered a "workplace" that can continue to function with limited staff. "I don't have advice to cancel the event on the basis that it's unsafe".

"It's not ideal - it's been really fun now with the crowd back". I'm sad, of course, that the crowd will not be there for the next few days.

Tennis Australia already faced serious backlash from Australian Open players for the 14-day quarantine required for global athletes who arrived last month.

It was largely blamed on lax infection control procedures at two Melbourne hotels where global travellers were required to quarantine for 14 days.

The cluster of cases linked to the hotel quarantine program at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport grew to 13 on Thursday night, with five new cases emerging, including two household contacts of existing cases.

Addressing the media on Friday, Mr Andrews had a sobering message for the state, given the seriousness of the United Kingdom variant of Covid-19, which is substantially more infectious.

But its quarantine hotels, where all global arrivals have to spend two weeks, have been a weak link in its defences, with the latest Melbourne cluster another example. Most of those were during a second deadly wave past year when a hard lockdown was put in place in Melbourne. All non-essential businesses and schools were closed, and residents were initially permitted to leave their homes for just an hour each day.

The players, perhaps aware of the backlash in the host city that followed some complaints about restrictions in the early days of their pre-tournament hotel quarantine, have accepted the lockdown with equanimity. A nightly curfew was imposed for weeks. Victoria had gone 28 straight days without a locally acquired case.

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. Several states have announced border closures already for travelers from Victoria.

One day's play in the warm-up tournaments at Melbourne Park was called off last week after a worker at one of the tennis quarantine hotels tested positive for COVID-19. That meant 507 people connected to the tournament, including 160 players, had to isolate in their accommodation and get tested for COVID-19.

In a second Instagram post on Saturday, Pervolarakis confirmed he tested negative to COVID-19 the day before he flew out of Melbourne.



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