Published: Mon, February 15, 2021
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Play On: Australian Open Continues Under Lockdown in Melbourne

Play On: Australian Open Continues Under Lockdown in Melbourne

Australia's second-most populous city will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown, authorities said on Friday, banning spectators for much of the Australian Open tennis tournament.

The lockdown across Victoria state from midnight (1300 GMT) was ordered out of fear a small outbreak of the "hyper-infectious" United Kingdom strain of the virus would undo Australia's so-far successful battle to contain the pandemic, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Players were back to travelling between their residences and the site of the year's first Grand Slam as per requirements of a biosecure "bubble", similar to the way they have competed since tennis restarted last August after a five-month shutdown. All non-essential businesses and schools were closed, and residents were initially permitted to leave their homes for just an hour each day. Face masks are mandatory when outside the home.

Melbourne endured a strict 112-day lockdown previous year when it brought cases down from over 700 a day to zero, and authorities are sensitive to even small outbreaks.

"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, noting the high transmission rate of the United Kingdom variant.

"I am confident that this short, sharp circuit-breaker will be effective", Andrews said.

"One thing they can not do is go around the city, they won't be able to do that, but that's expected in the next five days, all of us will be adhering to that".

The tournament will be allowed to continue as a workplace, but without crowds.

"The players have all been very good about it".

The most recent case is the mother of a three-year-old child who tested positive a day earlier. "I just tried to focus on my game", Elina Svitolina said after winning her third-round match.

"It's rough. It's going to be a rough few days for everyone", said the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion. "It's not ideal. It's been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here". But, you know what, at the end of the day we have to do what's best.

"That's what I was most proud of in 2020 during the pandemic ... you could not tell the difference in the players - they were behaving the same way", said Wilander, a Eurosport pundit who was a three-time victor at Melbourne Park. Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Former world number ones Garbine Muguruza and Naomi Osaka also moved into the fourth round with straight sets wins over Zarina Diyas and Ons Jabeur respectively. Movement", Andrews said. "By limiting our movement, we limit the potential spread of the virus. "So.5 days? I have to stick around. Hopefully after we will have it again".

The 24-year-old did not play in the Australian Open before flying to South Africa (stopping in Doha along the way), testing positive while in South Africa.

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