UPDATE: To ensure that fans are home by 11:59 p.m.—the start of the lockdown in Victoria—Tennis Australia has said that fans may be asked to leave Melbourne Park in the middle of a match.
Nick Kyrgios’ match with Dominic Thiem will start with fans, but could finish in an empty stadium. Tennis Australia confirms fans have to be at home by midnight to comply with the rules of the five day lockdown.
— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) February 12, 2021
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Fans will be banned from attending the Australian Open at Melbourne Park for five days from Saturday because of a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday announced a five-day lockdown starting a minute before midnight local time, imposing new restrictions that allow residents to only leave home to shop for essential supplies, care and caregiving, exercise and essential work.
The tournament will be allowed to continue as a workplace, but without crowds.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 12, 2021
Schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday, and there will be no gatherings for weddings or religious services.
Fans arriving at Melbourne Park on Friday before the announcement were instructed at the entrance gates to maintain social-distancing, apply sanitizer to their hands and pull their masks up over their noses.
The Australian Open was the first Grand Slam tournament in a year to allow sizeable crowds.
After the COVID-19 outbreak became a pandemic, Wimbledon was canceled, fans were not allowed at the U.S. Open and the number of spectators at the French Open was heavily restricted.
Under the initial plan for the Australian Open, the government allowed up to 30,000 people daily at Melbourne Park, or about 50% of capacity. The biggest daily attendance in the first four days was 21,010 on Thursday.
The lockdown is set to end at midnight next Wednesday, when decisions on restrictions will be made.
Serena Williams: “It’s sad, I’ve missed [the fans],” the 23-time Grand Slam champion told ESPN after her third-round win. “So…5 days? I have to stick around. We have to do what’s best.”
Alex de Minaur: “It’s a little bit disappointing; just been amazing to play with fans,” the Australian told Tennis Channel’s Nick Monroe. “Packed crowds, it’s something we’ve missed in the game. It’s going to be back to a bit of normality, and I guess you’ve just got to make your own motivation.”
Naomi Osaka: “I think for me, I’m actually lucky, because I’m used to it,” the 2019 champion told ESPN. “We’re guests in this country. For me, I just want everyone to be safe. It’s lucky that we’re still allowed to play.”