2021-02-12 11:24:07 | As the Australian Open plays on, Victoria officials order a ‘circuit breaker’ Covid lockdown.


Story by: Livia Albeck-Ripka, Christopher F. Schuetze and Natasha Frost The New York Times World News

More than six million people in Victoria, Australia, will enter into a snap lockdown for five days in response to a coronavirus outbreak at a quarantine hotel.

The order came as the Australian Open was being held in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, but the tennis tournament will continue — without spectators — the authorities said on Friday.

Victorians will be allowed to leave home only for essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving, and must wear masks whenever they leave home.

But while sports and entertainment venues will be shut down, professional athletes like tennis players will be classified as “essential workers” and allowed to continue their matches.

“There are no fans; there’s no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told reporters on Friday. “It’s not like the only people that are at work are supermarket workers.”

Tennis Australia said in a statement that it would notify all ticket holders of the changes and continue “to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”

The lockdown, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, comes after an outbreak at a Holiday Inn near the Melbourne Airport that was being used to house returned travelers.

By Friday, 13 people linked to the hotel had tested positive with the new virus variant that first emerged in Britain. In the past 24 hours, five new cases have been identified, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 19.

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Describing the lockdown as a “circuit breaker,” the authorities said it was critical to stopping the spread of the variant, which is highly infectious and has outwitted contact tracers before they can contain outbreaks. Similar snap lockdowns in Perth and Brisbane in recent months were successful in quashing infections.

In other global developments:

  • Germany will close its border to the Czech Republic and the Austrian state of Tyrol starting Sunday as it tries to protect against new variants of the virus. As part of that effort, Germany this week extended its national lockdown for another month.

  • New Zealand will receive the first batch of its 1.5-million-dose order of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and expects to begin vaccinating its border workers on Feb. 20, ahead of schedule, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday. The country, which has all but eliminated local transmission of the virus, has additional purchase agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novavax and AstraZeneca, and expects to start vaccinating its wider population in the second quarter of this year, Ms. Ardern said.

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Source References: The New York Times World News

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