The Australian Open won't be welcoming fans beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday night, local time. The state of Victoria is getting set to have a five-day lockdown as the number of COVID-19 cases rise.
The state had an outbreak that began at a Holiday Inn at the Melbourne Airport last week. The outbreak has produced 13 positive COVID-19 cases and all of those cases are presumed to be the United Kingdom strain of COVID-19, which many believe are more contagious than the original coronavirus strain.
On Friday morning in Australia, the Victorian Cabinet met and came to the conclusion that it was best for the state to enter into a five-day lockdown. The state will now be under Stage 4 restrictions, which means that fans won't be able to attend the Australian Open until at least the quarterfinals begin.
"The UK strain is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country and this is the advice I have been given by our health experts," Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said. "In terms of how the tennis will comply, I will let them speak [but] sporting events will function as a workplace but not for entertainment because there will be no crowds."
"I understand that many people will be concerned and anxious but I am confident that if we stick together this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. I want to be here next Wednesday announcing that these restrictions are coming off."
Under Stage 4 restrictions, Victorian residents are only permitted to leave their homes for four reasons: to give or receive medical attention, shop for essential goods and services, to work or study, and exercise (maximum of two hours a day). Australian Open participants are being labeled as "essential athletes," which means that they can continue to play in the Grand Slam tournament.
Between July and October 2020, Victorian residents were locked down as COVID-19 cases were on the rise. The state had 6,769 cases on Aug. 7, but decreased to under triple figures on Oct. 17.
This isn't the first Grand Slam tournament to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Open didn't allow fans last September while the French Open had just 1,000 spectators on a daily basis in October. Wimbledon was canceled last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.