The Australian Open is set to continue without fans until at least February 18 after Melbourne has been placed into another lockdown.
On the February 12, premier Daniel Andrews introduced new, tighter restrictions after 13 coronavirus cases had been confirmed, linked to the Holiday Inn hotel at Melbourne Airport.
It is hoped that on February 17, the 'circuit breaker' lockdown restrictions will be lifted, however, Andrews has said that it is still too early to confirm whether that will be the case come that date.
Health officials are said to be confident that they have been able to identify all those have come into contact with the people who have tested positive with COVID-19 but the premier has stated that a decision has not yet been made.
“Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” tournament organisers said in a statement.
“We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13th February.
“The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13th February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite.
“We will provide further updates on the new conditions as soon as possible.”
Fans were allowed to remain on the ground for Friday's action, though refunds were offered for the evening session, which is usually runs past midnight.
Craig Tiley, the tournament's director, has confirmed that the players will enter a tournament bubble and are happy to continue playing.
In a press conference, Tiley said: “The players have all been very good about it. They understand. They have been through a rigorous programme already.
“All along in this process, we have said the number one priority will be the safety of the community. This was one of our plans, to be able to compete in a bubble in a safe way. I imagine most of them (the players) will spend all their time here.
“One thing they cannot do is go around the city, they won’t be able to do that, but that’s expected in the next five days, all of us will be adhering to that. One thing the players have asked for is when they have lost, to have the comfort and be assured they will be able to fly home. We do have a very very clear event plan. We did receive very positive feedback on our event plan. A lot of work has been done leading in.
“The feedback we’ve had from all the players is they just want to get on and play. They’ve been playing in a bubble for a year now.”
Author: Jake Wilkin