Melbourne begins 5-day lockdown

Paola Ditto
Febbraio 13, 2021

Grigor Dimitrov wore a Bulgaria facemask before his match on Friday.

Players were back to travelling between their residences and the site of the year's first Grand Slam as per requirements of a biosecure "bubble", similar to the way they have competed since tennis restarted last August after a five-month shutdown.

People are now only permitted to leave their homes for one of the four essential reasons: shopping for necessary goods and services, essential work or education if it can not be done from home, care and caregiving, exercise for two hours per day with household members, an intimate partner or one other person only. Face masks are mandatory when outside the home.

Melbourne previous year endured a 111-day lockdown, one of the strictest and longest in the world at the time, to stem a coronavirus outbreak which lead to more than 800 deaths.

Small business owners were all the more distraught as the measures come over the Valentine's Day weekend, when they were counting on big profits to help recover from the earlier lockdown.

Initially, the virus came into Australia from an airport hotel which housed global travelers who were undergoing mandatory quarantine.

"We must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for", said state premier Daniel Andrews. "We will be able to prevent it getting away from us".

The lockdown, which has shut restaurants and cafes for all but takeaway, hit just as Melbourne had geared up for the biggest weekend in almost a year, with Lunar New Year celebrations, Valentine's Day and Australian Open crowds.

"The players have all been very good about it".

The problems at the Australian Open, the biggest global sports event so far this year, underline the difficulties of holding the much more complex Tokyo Olympics, which are due to start in July after a year's delay.

"I don't think it changes the dynamic of the tournament too much because the players are shut off, they are in a bubble anyway, so for them not much will change", said Barbara Schett, the former world number seven and an Eurosport pundit.

Serena Williams was in the middle of her third-round win over Anastasia Potapova when the lockdown was announced.

"It's rough. It's going to be a rough few days for everyone", said the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion. "It's been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here". But at the end of the day we have to do what's best. "But we will do whatever is necessary to get on top of this". Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Grigor Dimitrov, who also advanced to the fourth round on Friday, said he feels fortunate the tournament is going ahead at all.

"The Terminal 4 Jetstar and Rex flights are at higher risk, so those are the ones we are focusing on getting a phone call through and an SMS through to", she said.

'After a 24-plus hour travel day from Australia to South Africa I've been diagnosed positive to Covid-19, ' he posted on Instagram. "Hopefully after we will have it again".

The latest announcement comes just as the tournament was showing signs of life, following a tepid start with attendances well below even their reduced-capacity maximum.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic serves to United States' Talyor Fritz in an empty venue during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Spectators may notably face a scramble to be home before the midnight lockdown takes effect, with play frequently continuing into the early hours.

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