No crowds, but Australian Open will continue during lockdown

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Fans cheer for Australia's Nick Kyrgios, back to camera, during his third round match against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

MELBOURNE – The Australian Open will be allowed to continue but without crowds after the Victoria state government imposed a snap, five-day lockdown starting Saturday in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday announced a state-wide lockdown starting a minute before midnight local time, imposing restrictions that prevent residents from leaving their homes except for work, to shop for essential supplies, for care or caregiving, and limited exercise.

Schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday, and there will be no gatherings permitted at homes or for sports events, weddings or religious services. Masks will be required everywhere.

Andrews said the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open could continue “because these people are at their workplace.”

“It will be happening, but there’ll be no one there watching it," he said. “I don’t have advice to cancel the event on the basis that it’s unsafe."

Andrews se said the latest COVID-19 cases had nothing to do with the tennis quarantine program.

Organizers are hopeful of fans returning for the last four days of the tournament, including the semifinals and finals in the singles.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the only people who will be permitted on site from Saturday through Wednesday will be the players and their direct support teams, as well as essential staff members not able to work from home.