Tennis fans will finally be able to return to the Australian Open from Thursday morning, with an enforced 50 per cent capacity limit for the final four days of the tournament.
Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government have agreed to allow punters donning face masks to once again grace Melbourne Park following advice from health experts.
The announcement follows the news that Victoria’s five-day lockdown will be lifted at midnight on Wednesday.
‘The crowd will be capped at 7477 for each session, which is approximately 50 per cent capacity,’ Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
World number one Novak Djokovic (pictured above) will be playing in front of a crowd at the Australian Open on Thursday
‘Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric.
‘The players appreciated the opportunity to compete in front of crowds for the first time in almost a year, and many spoke about how emotional it was to connect with fans again.’
No new coronavirus cases were recorded in Victoria in the past 24 hours, with nearly 40,000 tests conducted across the state.
On Wednesday afternoon, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Victoria’s five-day coronavirus lockdown will officially end at 11.59pm – but some restrictions, including mandatory face masks and restricted social gatherings, will remain.
Victorians were locked down under brutal Stage Four restrictions on Friday as health officials sought to slow the spread of a Covid cluster stemming from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport.
The stay-at-home order, only allowing people to leave home for essential work, shopping, care and exercise, will now be repealed along with the 5km travel rule.
Face masks will still be mandatory indoor and outdoors if social distancing cannot be followed, and Victorians will only be allowed to have five guests in their houses.
Shops, bars, pubs and restaurants can also reopen on Thursday and 20 people can gather outside.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was able to lift the ‘short, sharp circuit breaker’ lockdown thanks to the low infection numbers – but some rules must stay.
‘[The lockdown was] exactly what we said we needed, that’s exactly what we said would work,’ he said.
The five-day lockdown meant spectators were banned from watching the Australian Open (pictured on February 16) – leaving stands empty. New capacity limits will be confirmed in the coming hours
Empty grounds (pictured above) at Melbourne Park will be no more after the lockdown was lifted from midnight on February 17
‘I am very proud of every single Victorian for the work they have done.’
Schools will reopen on Thursday after shutting down for three days, while visits to hospitals and care facilities will be limited to one household with a per day as restrictions ease.
Retail, hospitality and religious gatherings will be able to resume with the same density limits that were in place before the lockdown.
There are no limits on numbers for funerals and weddings but the gatherings must follow the venue’s density limits indoors and outdoors.
Sport and recreation will also be able to begin again with density quotas in place.
Health workers assist quarantining guests as they leave the Holiday Inn on February 16 (pictured) after a cluster there reached 19 people – putting the state into lockdown
Face masks will still be required in indoor and outdoor settings if social distancing cannot be followed. Pictured: People are seen exercising at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Wednesday
The outbreak at the Holiday Inn sits at 19 cases.
The starting point of the cluster can be traced back to a family of three who had returned from overseas and tested positive for Covid.
A returned traveller in the family was allegedly using a nebuliser to treat his chronic asthma and said he was given permission by health authorities to use the medical device.
The entire state of Victoria was plunged into a snap five day lockdown on February 12 in response to an outbreak at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn which has since grown to 19 cases (crowds at the Australian Open were banned following the announcement)
Pictured: Cafes and retail shops are closed in Melbourne’s Bourke St as police patrol the area during the five-day lockdown
It is believed the nebuliser allowed coronavirus-carrying particles to become airborne and infect a food and beverage worker, a security officer and a resident who has since left hotel quarantine.
A food and beverage worker from the Holiday Inn who tested negative on February 7, but tested positive three days later, is believed to be the source of another cluster close-by.
The worker’s partner and a family member also tested positive and all attended a function at Sydney Road in Coburg on February 6, which has resulted in more cases.
The Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn (pictured) Covid-19 cluster has grown to 19 cases
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley (left) and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrive at the press conference on Wednesday, where the premier announced lockdown would end
Victoria has recorded 20,640 cases and 820 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The state endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns last year after an outbreak in hotel quarantine sparked a horror second wave that killed more than 800 people, the vast majority of the national death toll.
Brisbane and Perth recently underwent similar snap lockdowns in response to cases of variant strains leaking from hotel quarantine.
In both instances, the outbreak was quickly contained.