Australia's Victoria state imposes snap lockdown to halt cluster outbreak

Australia's Victoria state imposes snap lockdown to halt cluster outbreak

Melbourne's new outbreak stems from the Holiday Inn, a hotel quarantine centre for worldwide travellers.

Preparations were thrown into further chaos nine days ago when it was announced a worker at one the tennis quarantine hotels had tested positive for coronavirus causing warm-up tournaments at Melbourne Park to be suspended.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the tournament would continue with crowds for the rest of Friday but fans would be excluded from Saturday.

The outbreak leaked from the hotel that was housing worldwide travellers undergoing mandatory quarantine and has so far infected 13 people, including hotel staff and their families.

Victoria suspended global passenger flights from Saturday, excluding those already in transit, until further notice.

People are only able to leave home to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise and to work or study if they can't from home.

A population of 6.5 million will be locked down because of a contagious British variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people.

Fans also were allowed to return to stadiums, and this year's Australian Open was more or less the world's first major sporting event to allow spectators in any significant fashion with a daily allowance of 30,000 fans, or about 50 percent of Melbourne Park's capacity. "What I'm saying is the game has changed", he added.

"But the most important thing you need to know is this: this is our opportunity - our brief window - to starve the virus of what it wants most". It is much faster. Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said Friday five new cases were reported in the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Andrews said the measures were a "short, sharp circuit breaker" in a bid to avoid a bigger, longer lockdown as the state combats a "hyper-infectious", strain of the coronavirus. "We will be able to smother this".

Victoria endured one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns past year after an outbreak that killed more than 800 in the state, the vast majority of the national death toll.

It was largely blamed on lax infection control procedures at two Melbourne hotels where global travellers were required to quarantine for 14 days.

The lockdown will quickly pose challenges on Friday, as high profile players including world number one Novak Djokovic, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and Australian showman Nick Kyrgios are due to play matches Friday night with the restrictions looming.

COVID-19 had already impacted the Australian Open significantly, with 72 players forced into hard lockdown for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, sparking complaints for some about the conditions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt were in Melbourne to inspect biotechnology company CSL Ltd's plant where a local version of the AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured.

"This is not the position Victorians wanted to be in but I can't have a situation where in two weeks' time, we look back and wish we had taken these decisions now", Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Saturday.

"I've just flown down from Sydney today". That's why I'm here.

Usually packed out on middle Saturday, a fan-free Melbourne Park is eerily quiet during Victoria's five-day lockdown because of another COVID-19 outbreak.

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