MELBOURNE, Australia – Tennis fans will be unable to watch the Australian Open live beginning Friday, as the state of Victoria announced a five-day lockdown amid a growing COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne’s suburbs.
The stage four restriction, decided by the Victorian Cabinet, means there are only four acceptable reasons for residents to venture away from their homes: shopping for essential items, exercise, caregiving and people who are essential workers, the Herald Sun reported.
Professional athletes have been classified as essential workers, which means the first tennis Grand Slam event of 2021 can continue, the newspaper reported.
Schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday in the Melbourne area, and there will be no gatherings for weddings or religious services.
The outbreak in Victoria began at a hotel near Melbourne’s airport and has risen to 13 cases, ESPN reported. Five cases were reported Thursday.
All cases at the hotel are believed to be the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, which is proving to be highly contagious and more difficult to contain than the original strain, the sports network reported.
“The UK strain is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said during a news conference on Friday. “(Sporting events) will function as a workplace but not for entertainment because there will be no crowds.
“I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. I want to be here next Wednesday announcing that these restrictions are coming off,”
Between July and October of 2020, Victoria was placed under a hard lockdown as it battled its second wave of COVID-19, ESPN reported.
Last September’s U.S. Open in New York was played without fans, and the following month, the French Open limited the crowd to 1,000 spectators per day.
“I know this is not the news that Victorians want to hear today,” Andrews said. “I know it’s not the place that we wanted to be in. However, we’ve all given so much, we’ve all done so much. “We’ve built something precious, and we have to make difficult decisions, and do difficult things, in order to defend what we’ve built.”
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