The Australian Open will continue on without fans from midnight Friday (8 a.m. ET Friday in the U.S.) after it was announced that Victoria will head back into lockdown to curb the spread of the Holiday Inn coronavirus outbreak.
Victoria will head back into lockdown from midnight Friday with Victoria Premier Dan Andrews announcing the state will enter a Stage 4 lockdown until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
“This hyper-infectious variant is moving at hyper-speed,” Andrews said.
“This is a short, sharp blast — the same as we’ve seen in Queensland and [Western Australia] — that will give us what we need to get ahead of this faster-moving virus. We will be able to smother this.”
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From midnight Friday, there will be only four valid reasons for Victorians to leave home: shopping, essential work, two hours of exercise and caregiving.
Nick Kyrgios is set to take to John Cain Arena on Friday night against No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem, where Kyrgios has lost just twice in 13 matches.
“I hope people will use common sense and good judgment and perhaps not go out tonight, as they had planned to do,” Andrews said. “That would be a great thing for them, for all of us.”
Should the match go five sets, the midnight cut-off could come into play. What that means for fans isn’t known as yet.
“We will let the event come back to you with the operational details,” Andrews said. “For instance, if you chose 9 p.m. — when we thought to picking 9 p.m. — because that probably avoids perhaps some people being out at various venues late at night, which we — would be a good thing, but it meant there would be many things that had started but not finished.
“Midnight means there will be less of them. But in terms of how the tennis are going to comply and the different — the very localized things they are going to do — I will let them speak to.”
In late January, it was revealed that attendance would be capped at 30,000 spectators for the first eight days of the event before being reduced to 25,000 once the quarterfinals begin.
Addressing the media late Friday, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said the players were firmly aware of the strict guidelines as they prepare to enter a bubble.
“Play will continue,” he said. “The players will compete in a bubble form.
“Those who will be allowed on site will be the players only and their support teams, as well as staff members who will be unable to do their work from home. Those who are essential for the delivery of the event will be on site.
“The players have all been very good about it. They understand. They have been through a rigorous program already.
“One thing the players have asked for is when they have lost, to have the comfort and be assured they will be able to fly home.
“I imagine most of them (the players) will spend all their time here. One thing they cannot 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 most important thing is the safety of everyone. We’re going to have to work through it. We’ve got an event to deliver. The team have done a good job handling these challenges.
“The feedback we’ve had from all the players is they just want to get on and play. They’ve been playing in a bubble for a year now.”
Tiley also assured fans who’d bought tickets to attend matches over the next five days would be refunded.
“All along in this process, we have said the No. 1 priority will be the safety of the community,” he added. “This was one of our plans, was to be able to compete in a bubble in a safe way.
“We’ve got the next five days of refunds. If fans do not want to come tonight because they don’t feel comfortable coming to the event, they can get a refund.
“We did not and do not expect to (have discussions with the department of health). We want to fully follow the advice of the department of health and we have been all along.”
The tournament is currently slated to finish on Feb. 21.
This article has been updated.