More than six million people in Victoria, Australia, will go into an abrupt five-day lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak at a quarantine hotel.
The arrangement came with the Australian Open being held in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, but the tennis tournament will continue – without spectators – authorities said Friday.
Residents of Victoria are only permitted to leave the house for essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving, and they must wear masks whenever they leave the home.
But while the sports and entertainment venues will be closed, professional athletes such as tennis players will be classified as “essential workers” and allowed to continue their matches.
“There are no fans. There are no crowds. These people are basically in their workplace,” Daniel Andrews, Prime Minister of Victoria, told reporters Friday. “It’s not like the only people at work are supermarket workers.”
Tennis Australia said in a statement that it would notify all ticket holders of the changes and would continue to “work with the government to ensure the health and safety of all”.
The lockdown, which will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, comes after an outbreak at a Holiday Inn hotel near Melbourne airport that was used to house returning travelers.
By Friday, 13 people associated with the hotel had tested positive for the new virus that had first appeared in Britain. In the past 24 hours, five new cases were identified, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 19.
The authorities described the closure as a “circuit breaker”, and said that it was critical to stop the spread of the variable, which is highly contagious and had outperformed contact tracing tools before it could contain the outbreak. Similar sudden lockdowns in Perth and Brisbane in recent months have successfully wiped out the infection.
“The game has changed,” Andrews said. “This is not a 2020 virus.”
He said he hoped the Victorians who suffered between The longest lockdowns in the world In the past year, they will work together to prevent the country from entering a third wave of Coronavirus. He said, “We will be able to suffocate this.”
The order had ripple effects in other Australian states, which all announced travel restrictions with Victoria. International flights, excluding shipping, to Melbourne have also been canceled.
In other global developments:
Germany It will close its borders with the Czech Republic and the Austrian state of Tirol from Sunday as it tries to protect against new variants of the virus. As part of that effort, Germany this week extended its national lockdown for another month.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday that the first batch of her order of 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, and expects to begin vaccinating border workers on February 20, ahead of schedule. Ardern said the country, which has eliminated local transmission of the virus, has additional purchase agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novavax and AstraZeneca, and expects to begin vaccinating its wider population in the second quarter of this year.