Melbourne: The Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead as scheduled next month, even after a group of 47 players were sent into 14-day hotel quarantine as they arrived into the country.
Players on two separate flights that arrived Friday from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi will spend two weeks in isolation without opportunities to practice, after four positive Covid-19 cases were confirmed, including tennis coach Sylvain Bruneau. Authorities disclosed the fourth positive test, a member of a broadcast crew, on Sunday.
“We are in this situation, we have to deal with it, the Australian Open is going ahead,” Tournament Director Craig Tiley told Channel 9 on Sunday. Players will be provided with fitness equipment for their hotel rooms. “It’s a tough situation and we have got to do whatever we can to make it as fair as possible for those players that are in lockdown,” he said.
Isolated players or officials aren’t permitted to leave hotel rooms but some people in quarantine had caused issues by opening doors to hold conversations, Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar told reporters Sunday in Melbourne. “There are a few people who are testing our procedures and we would encourage them to remain in their rooms,” she said.
More than 1,200 officials, players and support teams arriving in Australia ahead of the tournament had already been anticipating strict rules. They’re all subject to mandatory isolation in designated hotels, daily testing for Covid-19 and are restricted to daily five-hour blocks for training and treatment.
Some athletes now in hotel lockdown, including Swiss player Belinda Bencic and Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, posted messages to Twitter arguing they’ll be disadvantaged by a lack of training. Uruguayan player Pablo Cuevas and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva uploaded videos to social media accounts showing them hitting balls against upended mattresses inside their rooms.
The decision to allow Australian Open participants to enter the country has been contentious because of government restrictions that have capped arrivals of other international travelers, including citizens seeking to return home. Australia, which has recorded fewer than 29,000 cases of Covid-19 and 909 deaths, tightened rules earlier this month in response to the more transmissible U.K. Covid-19 variant.
Formula 1, which was scheduled to hold the first race of its new season in Melbourne in March, delayed the event until November. A 2020 race was canceled when a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for coronavirus. – Bloomberg