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Lockdown over, tennis fans back when Australia says no new virus cases for over 48 hours




CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia said on Thursday that it had been more than 48 hours since the discovery of the last locally acquired case of COVID-19, when the state of Victoria ended a lockdown that allowed thousands of tennis fans to return to Melbourne Park for the last days of the Australian Open.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Fans in the stands during the semifinals between Karolina Muchova from the Czech Republic and Jennifer Brady from the USA. Crowd returns to Australian Open today after five-day snap lockdown lifted following fresh outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS / Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Jack Barber, a 25-year-old student, was one of 7,477 spectators in the stadium who watched Japanese Naomi Osaka beat the United States’ Serena Williams and advance to the women’s final.

Yes, it is great. I was not sure if they would organize the event. It was very nice to be here. I actually like the lower crowds, Barber said, with the Rod Laver Arena limited by social distance restrictions to half its capacity.

It’s quite fun to walk around and go wherever you want.

Victoria lifted a five-day lockdown late Wednesday, after ordering one after a series of cases mostly related to workers in quarantine hotels for people coming from abroad.

Authorities said the only case of COVID-19 discovered across the country in the last 24 hours involved a person already in hotel quarantine after arriving from abroad.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the result, but said the global toll illustrates the need for a large-scale national vaccination program.

Australia’s vaccination program begins on Monday, starting with the hotel’s quarantine staff.

We believe vaccinating the quarantine and frontier workers will substantially protect them from transmission, we hope, but certainly from getting symptomatic COVID, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters in Canberra.

That’s our top priority for the first few weeks.

Australia has largely avoided the high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in other developed countries thanks to border closures and effective contact tracking systems. It has reported just under 29,000 cases and 909 deaths.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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