© Reuters. A man walks past a ‘Please stay home’ sign on the first day of a five-day COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne
By Renju Jose SYDNEY (Reuters) – A five-day rapid shutdown in Australia’s Victoria state will end on Wednesday, authorities said, as they reported no new cases in a group linked to a quarantined hotel in Melbourne city. . State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said most mobility restrictions will be lifted at midnight, but masks will remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors when social distancing rules cannot be followed. “In a broader sense, we are safe and open,” Andrews said at a televised news conference, but cautioned that the latest outbreak had not yet been fully contained. The lifting of the restrictions will allow at least some spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, where players have competed in empty stadiums during the lockdown. “There will be meetings early this afternoon … where we will discuss what a safe number is and make that decision as soon as possible,” Andrews said. Under the pre-shutdown agreement with the Victorian government, crowds would have been limited to 25,000 a day for the past four days, but Andrews said that number could be reduced further. Officials had allowed 30,000 spectators for each of the first eight days of the event, about half the normal attendance. Before the close, the number of spectators at the tournament was restricted to 25,000 and that could be further reduced during the final four days of the tournament, Andrews said. The closure in Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, was triggered by the discovery of COVID-19 cases at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. The number of cases rose to 19, but no new infections were reported on Wednesday. Residents of the state, more than a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, were ordered to stay home except to work, buy food, exercise outdoors and care for others. Australia has largely avoided the high rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths seen in other developed countries thanks to border closures and effective contact tracing systems. It has reported just under 29,000 cases and 909 deaths.