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.
While the premier did not explicitly address the Australian Open, it appears professional sport will continue as before.
“AFLW or that event or any number of other large and small professional sport events, they will function essentially as a workplace,” Andrews said. “But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.
“And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts.”
However, despite speculation and the above tweet, Andrews said the athletes are not essential workers.
“That’s not the distinction we have drawn,” Andrews said. “If you can work from home, you must from home. That’s the guiding principle. And I think that probably answers the question [on athletes being essential workers]. You can’t stack shelves at the supermarket at home. You can’t be involved in AFLW from home. That’s the basis of it.
“Again, if it was a longer-term prospect, not five days, things might well be different. That’s not the situation we’re in.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley will likely address the media Friday afternoon
The tournament is currently slated to finish on Feb. 21.
This article will be updated.