Aus Open 2021: Melbourne authorities announce Lockdown 5; what does it mean for season’s first Grand Slam?

Australian Open 2021: Melbourne authorities announce new lockdown; what does it mean for season’s first Grand Slam? –Despite some success with organising large-scale sporting events like the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and the Formula 1 season, there has always been a scare of a COVID-19 outbreak due to a huge number of participants. With Australia too reeling under the pandemic, the season opener Grand Slam was in doubt.

But with Australia being able to contain the outbreak in the country the coveted Australian Open got a green signal. However, with many of the players and staff testing positive for the virus, all of them were asked to go for a 14-day quarantine as the aim was to hold the tournament with spectators.

Then there was an outbreak at a Melbourne quarantine hotel with as many as 12 testing positive. Soon, alarm bells rang and forced authorities to impose a five-day lockdown in Melbourne. The primary concern was that most of the positive cases had the UK Coronavirus variant that is more transmissible than the original one, found in Wuhan, China, initially.

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What does Lockdown 5 means for the tournament?

With the new lockdown announcement on Friday, many are wondering about the fate of the tournament. However, the tournament organisers have assured that there will be no impact on the Australian Open. It will continue, albeit in a bio-bubble like most other tournaments.

“Play will continue. The players will compete in a bubble form. All the feedback we’ve heard is that the players just want to get on and play. 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,” Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia chief, told media on Friday.

However, during the five-day lockdown, with a ban in place on public gatherings, spectators will not be allowed in the Australian Open. Initially, the authorities expected to have at least 50% of spectators present during the matches, like the Australia-India cricket series.

“There are no fans. There are no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace. The minimum number of staff for it to be run safely — not just for the virus but other reasons — will be there,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Friday.

Those, who already bought tickets to the Australian Open for matches that will be played during the lockdown period, will get a full refund. Matches from February 18 will be played in presence of spectators.

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