Snap lockdown quashes Melbourne outbreak, tennis fans poised to return

MOTORSPORT TO RESUME IN VICTORIA TOMORROW

Australia's Victoria state is well placed to begin easing out of a snap five-day coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday (Feb 17), Premier Daniel Andrews said, as it reported just two new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday.

Mr Andrews emphasised the "hyper-infectious" nature of the United Kingdom variant as justification for announcing the lockdown last Friday.

The lockdown has been enforced across Victoria, a population of 6.5 million people, to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital.

Victoria also counted no further cases of COVID-19 among returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

"There was simply no alternative but to follow the advice provided", he said.

The state's six million-plus residents are required to stay home except for essential shopping and work, caregiving and outdoor exercise.

The lifting of restrictions will allow at least some spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, where players have competed in empty stadiums during the lockdown. Masks are mandatory both indoors and outdoors, when physical distancing can not be maintained.

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But some experts - including the Australian Medical Association - have been calling for a review of hotel quarantine environments due to concerns about airborne transmission. At least two of them had the United Kingdom variant.

"We are actively pursuing and examining the construction of a goal built quarantine centre".

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the lockdown would end as planned at midnight, even though three more locally transmitted cases have since been discovered. Yes, schools will reopen, along with childcare, early education and higher education.

"We'll finish up with crowds at lots of different places", Andrews said.

Some restrictions will remain after the lockdown, including limits of five visitors per household and mask-wearing in packed indoor spaces.

As Melbourne re-emerges from a five-day snap lockdown, fans can embrace life in the city once again by securing seats for blockbuster matches at the business end of the event, beginning with Thursday's women's singles semifinals before the first of the men's singles semis that evening.

But people will still be required to wear masks and visitors to homes will be limited to five people until February 26 when the last of the state's 25 active COVID-19 cases will no longer be infectious.

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