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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 2021 Australian Open, which begins Monday, will be the most normal sporting event the world has seen in nearly a year.

Driving the news: Up to 30,000 spectators a day will be allowed to attend the two-week event, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said this weekend.

"Over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that's about 50% of the average over the last three years."
— Martin Pakula

The state of play: This news comes as hundreds of players who traveled from overseas emerge from quarantine.

  • Most were allowed out of their hotel rooms for five hours a day to train, and stars like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal are already playing exhibitions in front of thousands of fans.
  • But 72 players were forced to endure a strict 14-day lockdown after passengers on their flights tested positive — and those players only just began practicing this past weekend.
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Australia has largely contained the pandemic, limiting cases to less than 29,000 and reporting zero community transmissions on 15 of the last 16 days.

  • Fewer Australians have died in total (909) than the average number of deaths per day currently in the U.S. and Britain.
  • Offices and restaurants are open. Masks are recommended, but not required. In some respects, life has returned to near normalcy.

What's working: While the U.S. and Europe seem to prefer "the half-baked lockdown," Australia has subdued the virus through much stricter methods.

  • A single positive case in Perth on Sunday led to a five-day lockdown for 2 million people. Melbourne residents weren't allowed to leave their homes for more than an hour each day from June to October.
  • Australia has benefited from its geographic isolation, but it's also taken decisive steps like mandating hotel quarantine for international arrivals since last March — something the U.S. only just made mandatory last week.

Go deeper

Feb 2, 2021 - World

Bushfire burns Perth Hills homes while Australian city is on lockdown

A local resident takes a picture of the bushfire and Perth city center on her phone on Tuesday. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

A massive uncontained bushfire has destroyed at least 30 homes in the Perth Hills, Western Australia, officials told the Australian Broadcasting corporation Tuesday.

Why it matters: Per state Premier Mark McGowan, "Right now WA is battling two different kinds of emergencies — a dangerous fire emergency and a COVID-19 lockdown emergency." He said there are "threats to lives and homes" from the wildfire.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Senate Dems receive max donations from Nord Stream 2 lobbyist

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A major Democratic donor and Nord Stream 2 lobbyist has made maximum campaign contributions this year to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and vulnerable Senate Democrats, campaign finance records show.

Why it matters: If pressure from the White House to vote against reimposing sanctions on the Russia-backed natural gas pipeline weren't enough, Democrats who back such legislation also will be at loggerheads with one of their party's top fundraisers.