A fourth person who flew into Melbourne for the Australian Open has tested positive for COVID-19, as dozens of tennis players prepare to spend two weeks unable to practice outdoors after being deemed close contacts.
- More than 120 people, including 47 players, who arrived on charter flights from LA and Abu Dhabi have been deemed close contacts
- People in hotel quarantine have been warned over breaching orders to remain in the rooms
- Some players have complained they were not told the entire plane would have to isolate if a passenger tested positive
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) commissioner Emma Cassar said the latest positive case was a member of a broadcast team who travelled to Victoria on a chartered flight from Los Angeles.
Two other passengers on that flight — a crew member and a tournament participant who is not a player — were confirmed as having the virus yesterday.
One passenger on another flight, EY8004 from the United Arab Emirates, also tested positive after arriving in Melbourne, CQV confirmed late last night.
All of the passengers on those planes, which included 47 tennis players, have been classed as close contacts and will be confined to their rooms for 14 days.
Under the Australian Open quarantine rules, COVID-negative players are allowed to leave their rooms for five hours training per day during their two-week hotel quarantine period.
Ms Cassar said Sunday’s training had been delayed while authorities waited for the test results of the more than 1,000 players and staff who had arrived between Thursday night and Saturday morning.
The EY8004 passenger, Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, said he had tested negative and had no symptoms before departing.
He said he had followed all COVID safety protocols and had no idea how he contracted the virus.
“I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight,” he said in a statement Tennis Canada posted on Twitter.
“The rest of my team is negative, and I sincerely hope that any further disruption is kept to a minimum.”
People in quarantine ‘testing our procedures’
Ms Cassar said there had been a “small few” people within the Australian Open quarantine hotels who were “testing our procedures” and had tried to leave their rooms.
“These procedures are in place to keep people safe,” she said.
“I can give you two examples, a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.
“The other was another gentleman who shouted some Uber Eats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.
“It is really low-level but really dangerous acts which we just can’t tolerate.”
One of the people was a player, Ms Cassar said.
She said there was “zero tolerance” for the “challenging behaviours” and CQV had contacted Victoria Police to step up compliance.
She said for those “persistently breaching” the rules, they could be fined or transferred to a complex health hotel where a Victoria Police officer would be stationed at every door.
‘No-one ever told us’: Tennis players complain about close contact rules
Victoria has recorded zero local coronavirus cases for the 11th consecutive day, out of 11,023 test results received in the 24 hours to midnight on Saturday.
Seven new infections were recorded in hotel quarantine, which includes the three connected to the Australian Open.
Some tennis players have said they were not aware that an entire flight would be required to isolate if someone tested positive, and have argued the rules put them at a disadvantage.
“What I don’t understand is that, why no-one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated … I would think twice before coming here,” Kazakh player Yulia Putintseva said on Twitter.
Romanian player Sorona Cirstea said after isolating for two weeks, she would need “at least three weeks after in order to be in decent form again and compete at a high level”.
She also said she was not aware everyone on a flight would be considered a close contact if a passenger tested positive.
“I have no issues to stay 14 days in the room watching Netflix. Believe me this a dream come true, holiday even,” she said on Twitter.
“What we cant do is COMPETE after we have stayed 14 days on a couch. This is the issue, not the quarantine rule.”
Swiss tennis player Belinda Bencic said after arriving in Melbourne, players received an information book with rules they did not know about before they decided to compete in the Australian Open.
“We are not complaining to be in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,” she said on Twitter.
Victorian Government says rules were ‘very clear’
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said officials would do whatever they could to “make it as fair as possible” for players who were in isolation.
“This is not an ideal situation — in the pandemic right now it’s not an ideal situation for anyone — we’ve got to play our part to ensure the community stays safe, and that was the objective all along,” he said on the Today Show.
“Our Chief Health Officer is ensuring that, and we made a commitment to the community of that, so it is unfortunate, but we’re going to do whatever we can to make a bad situation better.”
He said Tennis Australia made it clear that if someone tested positive, there was a risk of other Australian Open participants being required to self-isolate.
“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the Health Department, and they’re doing what they deem is necessary to keep our community safe,” he said.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the conditions and prerequisites were “made very clear” to participants in the Australian Open.
“Our health advice has always been consistent in terms of how close contacts are determined, all of that information is known, was known, and we are absolutely sticking to the safety requirements that our health experts are telling us need to be in place,” she said.
“This is about making sure that we continue with the Australian Open but doing it in a way that keeps the broader community safe and keeps Victoria open.”
Mr Tiley said the February 8 start of the Australian Open was not being delayed, but officials may look at adjusting the schedules of some of the tournaments in the lead-up if necessary.