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Normalcy down under

SYDNEY (Axios): The 2021 Australian Open, which begins next 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.”

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 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.