Tennis fans were ejected from the Australian Open today as a five-day lockdown caused by an outbreak of just 13 coronavirus cases came into effect in Melbourne.
Play was suspended at 11.30pm as spectators were ushered out half an hour before the shutdown – which has been blamed on a piece of medical equipment that allowed the virus to linger in quarantine hotel corridors.
While tennis players can still compete at the Australian Open, which is considered their ‘workplace’, fans are shut out until at least Thursday as the state of Victoria takes drastic action to avoid a repeat of last year’s 111-day lockdown.
Protests erupted in Melbourne today after Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announced the ‘short, sharp circuit breaker’.
Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, said the virus had ‘sat in the air’ of the quarantine hotel in Melbourne after a guest used a nebuliser in their room, a device similar to an inhaler that turns liquid medications into an aerosol spray.
The ‘aerosolised’ virus could have escaped into the corridor when the door was opened to deliver a meal, Sutton said, before infecting a worker at the Holiday Inn who tested positive on February 7.
Since then, a dozen more cases of the feared UK variant have been linked to the cluster, including two household contacts who were not at the hotel – days before Britain introduces a similar hotel quarantine system.
Victoria, which has recorded only 20,640 cases and 820 deaths since the start of the pandemic, will close schools and ban private gatherings while masks will be required everywhere – and supermarket panic-buying has already resumed.