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Melbourne enters new lockdown, barring Australian Open crowds

Australia’s second-most populous metropolis will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown, authorities mentioned on Friday, barring spectators for a lot of the Australian Open tennis event.

A recent COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine lodge in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, reached 13 circumstances as of Thursday midnight, as authorities rushed to quash the unfold of the virus. All of these infections had been linked to the extremely contagious UK variant.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews introduced the lockdown for the state, beginning at midnight on Friday, calling it a “short, sharp circuit breaker” banning public gatherings, residence auctions, weddings and non secular gatherings.

“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 advised reporters, noting the excessive transmission price of the UK variant.

Asked concerning the Australian Open, which runs by Feb. 21, the premier mentioned the Grand Slam event, one the largest occasions within the nation’s sports activities calendar, was thought of a office, topic to lockdown restrictions.

“There are no fans. There are no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace,” he mentioned. “The minimum number of staff for it to be run safely – not just for the virus but other reasons – will be there.”

The occasion had already been restricted to 50% of standard capability and was dogged by earlier complaints from some worldwide gamers, who had been compelled to spend vital preparation time in quarantine.

Event organisers confirmed the event would proceed with out crowds over the subsequent 5 days with no followers allowed on the match websites.

Spectators would, nevertheless, have the ability to attend video games scheduled for Thursday whereas those that had purchased tickets to restricted occasions would get a refund, the organisers mentioned in an announcement.”Australian Open periods right this moment and tonight will proceed as deliberate with COVID protected protocols in place,” it mentioned.

Other states together with Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania which have virtually eradicated the virus, closed their borders to Victoria. The most populous state of New South Wales, which recorded a twenty sixth day with zero neighborhood circumstances on Friday, has thus far saved its borders open.

Victoria endured one of many world’s strictest and longest lockdowns final 12 months after an outbreak that killed greater than 800 within the state, the overwhelming majority of the nationwide dying toll.

The head of Australia’s enterprise foyer group expressed frustration on the recent lockdown, calling it a “bitter disappointment for the whole community”.

“This is the second lockdown caused by Victoria’s hotel quarantine system, it must not be as long and destructive as the last,” Business Council Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott mentioned. “We must get hotel quarantine working properly.”

More broadly, Australia has been among the many world’s most profitable nations in dealing with the pandemic, largely due to decisive lockdowns and borders sealed to all however a trickle of travellers, with some 22,200 neighborhood circumstances and 909 deaths.

But its quarantine lodges, the place all worldwide arrivals should spend two weeks, have been a weak hyperlink in its defences with the newest Melbourne cluster one other instance.

Premier Andrews proposed tightening Australia’s citizen repatriation program to compassionate causes solely, a transfer that might get some help from different states which have had the UK pressure.

Ahead of the lockdown announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison provided his authorities’s full help for Victoria’s choices on containing the outbreak.

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