Melbourne, Australia: Authorities ordered a snap, five-day lockdown in Melbourne on Friday to contain a new coronavirus outbreak, threatening the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, which began in the city this week.
Under the restrictions, some five million people in Australia’s second-biggest city will have to remain at home for five days from midnight except for a limited number of permitted essential activities.
Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, said the lockdown was necessary to halt an outbreak of the “hyper-infectious” UK strain of Covid-19, which leaked from a quarantine hotel at the city airport.
Andrews did not specifically mention the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, which has attracted most of the world’s top players.
But he did say sporting venues were among the many businesses and places that must close during the lockdown.
“These restrictions are all about making sure that we respond appropriately to the fastest-moving, most infectious strain of coronavirus that we have seen,” he said.
“I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this. We will be able to prevent it getting away from us.”
The outbreak leaked from an airport hotel that was housing international travellers undergoing mandatory quarantine and has so far infected 13 people, including hotel staff and their families.
Overnight it emerged that one infected person had spent several hours at a cafe in an airport terminal, potentially infecting travellers heading to other parts of Australia.
Melbourne spent more than 100 days under lockdown last year to crush an earlier coronavirus outbreak that infected thousands and killed some 800 people. That lockdown ended in late October.
Two other Australian state capitals, Brisbane in the east and Perth in the west, recently underwent similar snap lockdowns in response to cases of the UK strain leaking from hotel quarantine.
In both instances, the outbreak was quickly contained.
Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing the coronavirus, with some 900 deaths for a population of 25 million.
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