Professional athletes are classed as essential workers under the Victorian government’s latest advice, as are the staff “attending to ensure the safe running of the event”.
Venues hosting professional sport events are allowed to remain open, but spectators are banned.
Premier Daniel Andrews said events such as the tennis: “will function essentially as a workplace.”
“But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds,” Mr Andrews said.
“And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts.”
Mr Andrews said people will “make their own judgements and have their own views” about the tennis going ahead, but he is following the health advice.
“I don’t have advice to cancel the event on the basis that it’s unsafe,” he said.
“I just don’t have that. Again, I remind everybody, in case there is any sense of confusion, this case has got nothing to do with that event.
“This case is a different matter. The advice that I have got is that we have to take these steps.
“You have to do what the advice tell us us to do and what we think is as proportionate as possible.”
Tennis Australia confirmed no crowds will be allowed at Australian Open matches from Saturday.
“Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” a statement said.
“Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVIDSafe protocols in place.”
Ticketholders, players and staff are being notified of the changes to fans, and full refunds will be available for any affected sessions.
Information on how to apply for a refund will be released soon.
“The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13 February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite,” the statement said.
“We will provide further updates on the new conditions as soon as possible.”
The Australian Open was already under the microscope before it began, with international players required to complete 14 days in hotel quarantine.
There were also a number of cases linked to the tournament early on, but the current cluster is separate.
Victoria will enter a “short, sharp, circuit breaker” five-day lockdown from midnight tonight as the state battles to control the wildly infectious UK strain of coronavirus.
There are now 13 coronavirus cases linked to the Holiday Inn cluster in Melbourne.
Mr Andrews said the government had to act out of an “abundance of caution” to prevent a third wave of COVID-19.
“Today’s announcements are not about dealing with a third wave, they are about making the difficult choices to prevent a third wave,” he said.
“We have a lot to be proud of as a community. We know what to do. We are the only place in the world to have defeated a second wave.”
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