As Covid Rules Ease, Australian Open Can Play Before a Full House

Two of Australia’s biggest sports events — the Australian Open tennis tournament and the annual Boxing Day cricket test match in Melbourne — will be allowed to take place before full-capacity stadiums as part of an easing of coronavirus restrictions.

With 90 percent of people over 16 expected to be fully vaccinated by this weekend in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, the authorities are easing pandemic-related rules, including capacity limits for public events.

Events with up to 30,000 spectators can be held without state government approval, and larger events can go ahead at full capacity if they have a government-approved coronavirus safety plan in place.

Attendees at all sports events will be required to be fully vaccinated.

The Australian Open, which is played early each year in Melbourne, attracted about 820,000 spectators over two weeks the last time it was held at full capacity, in 2020. The Grand Slam tournament is played in a variety of venues, with the largest, Rod Laver Arena, able to seat about 15,000 spectators.

Last year, attendance was capped at 30,000 fans a day for the first five days before spectators were barred as Melbourne dealt with another outbreak. The tournament’s final four days were played at 50 percent capacity.

It is unclear whether unvaccinated tennis players or players who do not reveal their vaccination status — including the world No. 1, Novak Djokovic — will be able to attend the Australian Open. The Victoria government said in late October that it would not seek exemptions for unvaccinated players to enter the country. International visitors require a government exemption in order to enter Australia.

Spectators will also be able to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has a capacity of 100,000, to watch the Boxing Day cricket test match between Australia and England on Dec. 26. The test match is part of the Ashes, a series between England and Australia that is held every two years and is one of the biggest events in cricket.

“Whether it’s 100,000 people at the M.C.G. on Boxing Day or a smaller group of people standing up at the public bar of their pub having a beer, this is the Covid-normal that every Victorian has built,” the premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said at a news conference on Thursday.

Other restrictions in Victoria are also being lifted. Starting on Friday, restrictions end on the number of people allowed in restaurants and bars, and masks will no longer be mandatory in most settings.

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