Australia’s two biggest sporting events – the Australian Open and the annual Boxing Day test cricket in Melbourne – will be allowed to take place in front of full-capacity stadiums as part of a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
90 percent of people over 16 are expected to be fully vaccinated by this weekend in Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, authorities are easing rules related to the pandemic, including capacity restrictions for public events.
Events with up to 30,000 spectators can be held without state government approval, and larger events can run at full capacity if they have a government-approved coronavirus protection plan.
Participants in all sporting events must be fully vaccinated.
The Australian Open, which is held annually at the beginning of the year in Melbourne, attracted around 820,000 spectators in two weeks, when it was last held at full capacity in 2020. The Grand Slam Tournament is held at various venues, the largest of which is Rod. Laver Arena, with a capacity of about 15,000 spectators.
Last year, attendance was capped at 30,000 fans a day for the first five days before viewers were locked out as Melbourne dealt with a new outbreak. The last four days of the tournament were 50 percent played.
It is unclear if unvaccinated tennis players or players who do not disclose their vaccination status, including the world’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic, will be able to attend the Australian Open. At the end of October, the Victoria government announced that it would not seek to exempt unvaccinated players from entering the country. Foreign visitors require a state exemption to enter Australia.
Viewers will also be able to fill out the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has a capacity of 100,000, to watch a test cricket match on Boxing Day between Australia and England on 26 December. The test match is part of the Ashes, a biennial series of games between England and Australia that is one of the largest cricket tournaments.
“Whether it’s 100,000 at MCG on Boxing Day or a small group of people standing in their pub’s public bar with a beer, this is the normal Covid that every Victorian built,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on Thursday.
Other restrictions in Victoria are also being lifted. Starting Friday, the restrictions on the number of people allowed in restaurants and bars will end and masks will no longer be required in most cases.