Four cases of coronavirus have been detected on charter flights carrying tennis players, coaches and officials to Melbourne for the Australian Open, forcing 47 players into strict hotel quarantine.
Health officials confirmed there were three positive tests for COVID-19 on Saturday and another on Sunday.
None of the cases so far have involved any players, although one is Sylvain Bruneau, who coaches Canada’s world number 7 woman Bianca Andreescu.
Tennis Australia said the two affected flights arrived from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, carrying 24 and 23 players respectively.
Everyone on board was considered close contact and ordered not to leave their hotel room during the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
Other players who have landed in Australia are also undertaking a mandatory 14-day quarantine, but may leave their hotels five hours a day to train.
The Australian Open kicks off on February 8.
It is an introduction to the #AusOpen unlike any other, with players and tournament and support teams teaming up to protect the health of our community from COVID-19.
– #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2021
Well hello beautiful Melbourne.
– Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) January 15, 2021
Craig Tiley, director of the Australian Open, told the Nine News Network on Sunday that the first Grand Slam of the year will go as planned and that Tennis Australia, the governing body, will consider changing the preliminary tournaments to help the players concerned.
“We’re reviewing the schedule to see what we can do to help these players,” Tiley said.
“Obviously that’s not what we wanted. This is why we have taken mitigating measures, but we are in this situation, we have to face it… The Australian Open continues and we will continue to do our best to ensure that these players have the best opportunities. . “
‘I would have stayed at home’
Several players, including Sorana Cirstea from Romania, Belinda Bencic from Switzerland and Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan, took to social media to complain about not being able to train, with some saying they had not been informed of a locking hard if a person tested positive.
Cirstea, women’s world number 71, tweeted: “If they’d told us this rule before, I wouldn’t play in Australia. I would have stayed at home. They told us that we would fly at 20% capacity, in sections, and that we would only be close contact if my team or cohort tested positive.
I agree… if they’d told us this rule before I played Australia… I would have stayed home. They told us that we would fly at 20% capacity, in sections and that we would be close contact ONLY if my team or cohort was positive. https://t.co/kF58HEijqq
– Sorana Cirstea (@sorana_cirstea) January 16, 2021
Bencic said she and the 46 other players were at a disadvantage.
“We’re not complaining (of being) in quarantine. We are complaining about uneven training / playing conditions ahead of some pretty big tournaments, ”she said on social media.
Tiley admitted it was difficult, but said players were warned there would be a “significant risk” of restrictions placed on players if there were positive cases of COVID-19.
“We did it very clearly at the start,” Tiley said. “Now we have to manage an environment over the next 14 days for those who won’t be able to practice.
“It’s a difficult situation. We need to do everything in our power to make things as fair as possible for the stranded players.
Some players have already broken the strict quarantine rules when opening their doors.
Victoria State COVID-19 Quarantine Commissioner Emma Cassar has warned they face fines of up to AU $ 20,000 ($ 15,300) and repeat offenders risk being sent to another hotel with a policeman parked outside their door.
She cited one player “who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate in the hall”, while another bought take-out for friends on the same floor “and praised his efforts and opened his door to do so “.
“These are really low level but really dangerous acts that we just cannot tolerate,” Cassar said.
The Australian Open had previously been affected by the withdrawal of injured Roger Federer, while world number 16 Madison Keys and three-time major winner Andy Murray both tested positive for the virus before departure and did not therefore not shipped for Australia.
While most of the players have landed in Melbourne, superstars such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have flown to Adelaide.
South Australian health officials “have confirmed that there is no one who has an active COVID-19 infection in the entire Adelaide-based tennis cohort,” the Australian Open said on Twitter. “Testing will continue daily.”