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As the Australian Open plays on, Victoria officials order a ‘circuit breaker’ Covid lockdown.


More than six million people in Victoria, Australia, will enter into a snap lockdown for five days in response to a coronavirus outbreak at a quarantine hotel.The order came as the Australian Open was being held in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, but the tournament will carry on — without spectators — the authorities said on Friday.Victorians will be allowed to leave home only for essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving and must wear masks whenever they leave home.But while sports and entertainment venues will be shut down, professional athletes like tennis players will be classified as “essential workers” and allowed to continue their matches.“There are no fans; there’s no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told reporters on Friday. He said, “It’s not like the only people that are at work are supermarket workers.”In a statement released to The New York Times on Friday, Tennis Australia said it would notify all ticket holders of the changes and continue “to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”The lockdown, which will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, comes after an outbreak at a Holiday Inn near the Melbourne Airport that was being used to house returned travelers.By Friday, 13 people linked to the hotel had tested positive with the new, more virulent variant of the virus that first emerged in Britain. In the past 24 hours, five new cases have been identified, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 19.Describing the lockdown as a “circuit breaker,” the authorities said it was critical to stopping the spread of the variant, which is highly infectious and has outwitted contact tracers before they can contain outbreaks. Similar snap lockdowns in the city of Perth and Brisbane in recent months were successful in quashing infections.“The game has changed,” Mr. Andrews said. “This is not the 2020 virus.”He said he hoped Victorians, who endured among the longest lockdowns in the world last year, would work together to prevent the state from entering a third wave of the coronavirus. “We will be able to smother this,” he said.The order had ripple effects in Australia’s other states, which all announced travel restrictions with Victoria. It is also expected to hurt local businesses like restaurants and florists, who were relying heavily on profits from Valentine’s Day to recover from last year’s lengthy lockdown.

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Will the Super Bowl Cause a Coronavirus Surge?


Just as the United States seems to have emerged from the worst of a surge in coronavirus cases that ravaged the country for months and peaked after Americans crowded indoors for the winter holidays, public health officials are concerned about another potential superspreader date: Super Bowl Sunday.January was the country’s deadliest month so far in the pandemic, accounting for 20 percent, or 95,246, of the more than 460,000 coronavirus deaths the United States has recorded in the past 12 months. That’s more people than could fit into even the largest N.F.L. stadium.Experts worry that football fans gathering on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., for the championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or at watch parties across the country, could set back the nascent progress of recent weeks. The daily reports of new cases and deaths remain high but have fallen somewhat. The seven-day average of new case reports in the U.S. dropped to 125,804 on Friday, the lowest level since Nov. 10. Reports of deaths, a lagging indicator because patients who die from Covid-19 generally do so weeks after being infected, averaged 2,913 a day, the lowest rate since Jan. 7.The United States is administering 1.3 million vaccine doses a day on average, as the Biden administration pushes to speed distribution before more contagious variants that might evade vaccines can become dominant. The N.F.L. has offered President Biden all 30 of its stadiums for use as mass vaccination sites.Officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser for Covid-19, have warned Americans against gathering for Super Bowl parties with people from other households, especially in places without ideal ventilation.“You’re really putting yourself and your family in danger,” Dr. Fauci said Friday on MSNBC.“It’s the perfect setup to have a mini superspreader event in your house,” he added. “Don’t do that for now.”Updated Feb. 7, 2021, 1:33 p.m. ETWhile health experts worry about a rise in cases after the game, some said they don’t anticipate anything as deadly as the post-holiday wave that peaked in January. That is because Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to spur more domestic travel than the Super Bowl does, said Dr. Catherine Oldenburg, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.Still, even parties pose a threat, said Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington.“My sense is that it’s a really great year to watch it at home with your family, and not go to Super Bowl parties that you usually would, because we’re just starting to get this under control in this country,” Dr. Bergstrom said.Dr. Bergstrom said he was also concerned about the more than 20,000 people who are expected to attend the game in person at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa — about one-third of the stadium’s usual capacity.“Any time you get 25,000 people together yelling and screaming during a pandemic, you’re going to have transmission,” Dr. Bergstrom said. Public health experts worry that new, more contagious variants, like one first identified in Britain and known as B.1.1.7, will soon become dominant and drive a deadly surge this spring. At least 187 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in Florida, more than in any other state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Bars will be open in Florida during the game, and some are advertising Super Bowl parties. Before the game, Tampa’s mask order was extended to apply to outdoor areas where people could gather.Super Bowl ticket holders have not been discouraged by the pandemic. Jeremiah Coleman, a Chiefs fan from Wichita, Kan., said, “On my deathbed, this will probably be one of the top five days I remember in my life, you know?”

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