An additional 25 tennis players were forced into quarantine in Melbourne after they tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total players in quarantine up to 72 isolated in hotel rooms on Sunday.
The positive test came from a passenger who was not a member of the playing contingent, and also tested negative of the virus before the flight, Australian Open organizers said. But all 58 passengers, including the 25 players on the flight from Doha, Qatar that arrived in Melbourne on Saturday, now cannot leave their hotel rooms for fourteen days.
There were already 47, including Grand Slam winners, following under strict quarantine protocols after three positive tests were returned from a charter flight that arrived from Los Angeles and one from a flight that departed Abu Dhabi.
Some players have expressed their anger at being classified as close contacts merely for being on board those flights with people who later tested positive. That classification has forced them into a harder isolation than the broader group of players.
Local government, tennis and health authorities have told that all players were warned of the risks ahead.
“There’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules — well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else, and they were all briefed on that before they came and that was a condition on which they came,” Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference Monday.
“There’s no special treatment here … because a virus doesn’t treat you specially.”
Cassar, who also is in charge of the state’s prisons, said there’d been cases of people “testing” the quarantine procedures, triggering a warning and a conversation with the state’s police, but no attempts to escape quarantine.
“There’ll be zero tolerance for that behavior,” Cassar said. “This is designed to make people safe. We make no apologies for that.”
Several players in quarantine, including Sorana Cirstea of Romania, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan took over social media
and complained about the rules that seemed to have changed between what they saw before traveling to Australia and what was being imposed in Melbourne.
Cirstea posted on Twitter: “If they would have told us this rule before I would not play Australia … I would have stayed home. They told us we would fly at 20% capacity, in sections and we would be a close contact ONLY if my team or cohort tests positive.”
But government officials have rejected those claims. “There’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane 16-24 hours, with air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” Cassar said. “This was made very clear and nothing has changed.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said that no plans would change to delay the Australian Open any further, as it’s already scheduled to start three weeks later than usual — although organizers were reviewing the schedule for the warmup tournaments starting Feb. 1 to find ways to make it easier for those players in strict quarantine to prepare.
Tickets are on sale for the tournament, although the crowd capacity at Melbourne Park will be limited.
Australia’s international borders are basically closed to travelers, although there are exemptions in special circumstances. Each of Australia’s states and territories has its own border and quarantine rules, and those can change on very short notice.
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