Melbourne struggles to warm up amid Grand Slam pandemic By Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in early trial

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A staff member wearing PPE works to clean surfaces at Melbourne Park in Melbourne

By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian Open has long been the jewel in Melbourne’s sporting crown, but residents with bitter memories of the COVID-19 lockdowns fear the Grand Slam may still prove a poisoned chalice . As the country approaches two weeks without a case of community transmission, Tennis Australia spent some A $ 40 million ($ 30.58 million) transporting 1,200 players and staff from around the world and subjecting them to two weeks hotel quarantine. Unlike last year’s French and US Open, where the focus was on minimizing the risk of infection for players, the measures in place for the Australian Open are to protect locals who paid dearly for freedoms. they currently enjoy. “I think it’s horrible that they are preparing the Australian Open,” said Liam Janke, a chef in Melbourne’s CBD, as he took a smoke break during his shift on Friday. “It’s a huge risk. It’s like they don’t even remember what happened here last year.” Melbourne was the epicenter of Australia’s largest second wave outbreak, arising from returning travelers and infecting staff in the hotel’s quarantine. The outbreak in mid-2020 ended up costing nearly 800 lives and ruining countless livelihoods as some five million people endured one of the world’s tightest lockdowns for nearly four months. With the virus now under control, Melbourne has regained most of its pre-COVID freedoms and Australia is being viewed by other nations as a model for how to contain it. However, many Melbourne residents remain cautious about gathering in large numbers and the news of a large number of positive tests among the quarantined Australian Open cohort reignited fears about the possibility of another outbreak. BIG STARS COMPLAINING Some locals reacted dismissively to player complaints about quarantine conditions after they were flown free on charter planes while thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas, unable to secure a seat on limited flights into the country. “I have colleagues overseas who are trying to get back to Australia and they can’t,” said Anthony Macarone, a bartender at a bar on the south bank of the Yarra River. “They keep getting hit because airlines find others who will pay more for their seats.” So you have these big stars coming in and complaining. “The first groups of quarantined players and their entourage were released from isolation on Thursday. The rest are expected to come out on Sunday. They will play in front of a limited crowd at the Australian Open, with 35% capacity of current allocation in Melbourne Park. Social distancing measures mean cheap and popular “land passes”, which give fans access to all but the exhibition ones, will not go on sale this year Many people will choose to stay away altogether, said Danielle Cummins (NYSE :), an elderly care worker, who was having a glass of wine in a nearly empty bar in town. “I usually go, but I won’t be this year. “she said.” I just don’t feel comfortable with it. “What we have is precious here. And the only way it will be undone is by letting in the virus from abroad.” ($ 1 = 1.3079 Australian dollars)