Australian Open concerns ease as Victoria records no new COVID-19 cases

FILE PHOTO: Workers clean a seating area at Melbourne Park in the wake of the day’s tennis matches leading up to the Australian Open being cancelled after a hotel quarantine worker at a player hotel tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria reported no local coronavirus cases on Saturday for the second straight day, boding well for the Australian Open tennis tournament due to start in Melbourne on Monday.

More than 500 staff and players in the Grand Slam event tested negative for the coronavirus virus on Friday in re-testing required after a worker at their quarantine hotel caught the virus.

Positive cases could have spurred a lockdown, and qualifying matches were canceled on Thursday while test results were pending. The Victorian government ruled that except for players, masks will be mandatory at Australian Open games, which will be played under a closed roof. Following the most recent case, masks are required in all indoor spaces in Victoria.

“That applies to the stadia at the Australian Open when the roofs are closed, it’s like any other indoor setting,” Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said at a press conference on Saturday.

Public health officials said on Saturday that all immediate close contacts of the hotel worker have so far tested negative for the virus but urged people to get tested even with mildest symptoms.

“I want to reinforce the message that this is not over, that this is wildly infectious,” Victoria’s Health Minister Mike Foley said.

Western Australia, the country’s biggest state where there was a single case of the coronavirus reported a week ago, on Friday evening exited a snap lockdown after reporting no cases for five straight days.

Thanks to border closures, high rates of community compliance and aggressive testing and tracing, Australia has been more successful than most advanced economies in managing the pandemic, with total infections at under 29,000 and 909 deaths so far.


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