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Melbourne enters new lockdown, crowds barred from Australian Open

by Reuters
Friday, 12 February 2021 02:55 GMT

(Recasts with official confirmation)

SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australia's second-most populous city will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown, authorities said on Friday, barring spectators from the Australian Open tennis tournament.

A fresh COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, reached 13 cases as of Thursday midnight as authorities rushed to quash the spread of the virus.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the lockdown for the state, calling it a "short, sharp circuit breaker" banning public gatherings, home auctions, weddings and religious gatherings.

"There will be no crowds" at sporting events in the state, Andrews said. The tournament runs until Feb. 21. Crowds had already been limited to 50% of usual capacity for the Grand Slam event.

"We must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for, and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months," Andrews told reporters.

Victoria endured one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns last year.

Ahead of the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his government's full support for Victoria's decisions on containing the outbreak.

"We have dealt with (outbreaks) in the last few weeks in Sydney and Brisbane and Perth, and so a proportionate response... enables tracers to be able to get on top of it and get the same successful result we have seen in other states," Morrison told reporters.

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Swati Pandey; Writing by Sam Holmes; Editing by William Mallard)

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