Australian Open caps ticket sales at 50 per cent due to COVID-19 surge

Serena Williams and Simona Halep play their quarterfinal match on Rod Laver Arena at the 2021 Australian Open. (Andy Brownbill/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Limits on ticket sales have been introduced for the Australian Open because of surging COVID-19 cases four days before the first tennis major of 2022 is set to begin.

The Victoria state government announced Thursday that ticket sales for the Australian Open will be capped at 50% for any sessions that have not already sold to that level.

All tickets already sold will remain valid, the statement said, with no changes or cancellations expected.

The tournament starts Monday at Melbourne Park and the final is set for Jan. 30.

Face masks will be mandatory and density limits will be imposed on indoor hospitality areas. It had already been mandated that all spectators must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

"As COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases continue to rise in Victoria, these mitigation strategies are proportionate and designed to assist in limiting the spread," the government said in a statement.

Australian Open organizers had been hoping to return to capacity crowds for this year's tournament after restrictions were imposed in 2021, including movement restrictions between sections of Melbourne Park and days when no fans were allowed on site.

But the omicron variant of the coronavirus has swept across Australia in recent weeks despite the country's high vaccination rate and strict border policies that kept it largely isolated during the pandemic.

The amendments to the tournament's so-called COVIDSafe event plan were imposed on a day when Victoria state reported 25 deaths and 37,169 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the state's total active cases to 221,726.

Before the pandemic, the 2020 Australian Open attracted 812,714 spectators across 14 days.

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