Australian Open to allow 7,500 centre court fans

by AFP

MELBOURNE – The Australian Open will allow 50 percent capacity at Rod Laver Arena, the centre court, from Thursday after state authorities eased a five-day coronavirus lockdown, organisers of the Grand Slam tennis tournament said.

“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high,” tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.

A maximum of 7,477 fans will be allowed at each of the day and night sessions from Thursday, Tiley said.

The announcement comes ahead of the five-day state-wide lockdown ending at midnight on Wednesday with state health authorities expressing confidence the snap restrictions had been enough to contain a coronavrius outbreak.

“Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric,” said Tiley.

The restrictions were ordered last Friday after a small cluster of the UK coronavirus variant emerged.

The Australian Open’s Melbourne Park complex had been operating on a restricted grounds capacity of 30,000 spectators per day in the first week of the tournament before the snap lockdown.

The five-day stay-at-home order now appears to have contained the outbreak, which centred on a hotel near Melbourne airport, to 19 people. 

No new cases were reported Wednesday.