LONDON – The British weather welcomed the first day of the Wimbledon tennis tournament on time with rain and gray skies.
But the tournament and London itself face a greater threat: rising coronavirus cases in England, fueled by the more infection Delta variant first identified in India.
World class tennis stars and dedicated fans will be gathering for a tournament in the famous South West London neighborhood over the next two weeks that will do its best to keep the coronavirus at bay.
The tournament comes as England sees dramatic spikes in some cases, largely due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious and spreads faster.
As of Sunday, there had been just under 15,000 coronavirus cases in England – a 58 percent increase from last week – according to official government data. In addition, 124 people have died of Covid-19 in the past 7 days, a steep increase in recent months.
Wimbledon, canceled last year for the first time in three quarters of a century, the audience will be at 50 percent capacity for most games, although the finals will allow a larger number.
Viewers must also provide evidence that they have had two vaccinations or a negative Covid test, wear face masks when not seated, and observe social distancing and a one-way system on site. said the All England Lawn Tennis Club in its updated policy.
Ball boys and girls will not handle player towels or drinks this year either. While those who can’t enjoy the traditional strawberry and cream snack on-site can have afternoon tea baskets delivered to their homes, the club said.
“We have an inspiring role to play for fans and players alike – but we will do it safely,” said the All England Club, adding that during the public health crisis such as health workers, 100 tickets a day are also being offered important staff would be awarded, teachers, and charity groups.
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“Our aim is to have the best championships possible, but it has always been our top priority to do it safely,” he said. AELTC chief Sally Bolton said: earlier this month.
The players are also affected British woman number one, Johanna Konta, forced to retire and self-isolate on Sunday after a member of their team tested positive for Covid-19.
On Monday, see Novak Djokovic, Jack Draper, Andy Murray and Venus Williams on duty in court.
Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal both retired from Wimbledon at the beginning of the summer for health and personal reasons.
“It’s a little different now to run on the premises,” Serena Williams told reporters on Sunday. “Wimbledon feels very different in general, but it still has a very special feeling.” The tennis superstar also announced on Sunday that she would not travel to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The players are limited to a maximum entourage of three and even the biggest names have to stay in approved so-called Wimbledon bubble hotels instead of renting private houses in the upscale neighborhood as usual.
The surge in cases in the UK comes despite a relatively successful vaccination program, with 84 percent of adults having had a vaccination at least one vaccination, according to the Ministry of Health.
The increased case numbers come at a time of the UK government crisis when the country’s health minister resigned over the weekend following a scandal in which he broke social distancing rules after getting into a romantic hug with a colleague. A new Minister of Health was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.
The summer holidays also begin with schools closing down for the summer and travel-hungry Brits looking for destinations that will let them in, particularly on the European continent.
Sporting events like the Euro 2020 soccer tournament and Wimbledon are likely to lift the mood for a nation that has endured bans and severe social restrictions for over a year.
“When Wimbledon was canceled last year, it was a blow in the gut for our sport. A terrible time,” three-time Wimbledon winner John McEnroe told Reuters. “To have it back is amazing.”