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Australian Open In Chaos, Players In Lockdown As Hotel Worker Tests Positive

Victoria reintroduces COVID-19 restrictions while a question mark hangs over the tournament.

Up to 600 players and support staff connected to the Australian Open will have to isolate until they have been tested for COVID-19 after a hotel quarantine worker in Melbourne returned a positive result for the virus on Wednesday.

Play at the six warm-up events for the Grand Slam at Melbourne Park was heavily disrupted with organisers Tennis Australia cancelling all matches for Thursday.

“Those associated with the AO who quarantined at the hotel now need to be tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result,” the organisers of the February 8-21 Grand Slam said in a statement.

“We will work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible. There will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday. An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later today.”

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the positive case should not impact the Australian Open itself and testing of contacts will start from Thursday.

Tennis players queue for a Covid-19 coronavirus test at a hotel in Melbourne on February 4, 2021, as six Australian Open warm-up events were on hold and hundreds of players and officials in isolation as a fresh coronavirus case left organisers scrambling to ensure the Grand Slam tennis tournament goes ahead.
Tennis players queue for a Covid-19 coronavirus test at a hotel in Melbourne on February 4, 2021, as six Australian Open warm-up events were on hold and hundreds of players and officials in isolation as a fresh coronavirus case left organisers scrambling to ensure the Grand Slam tennis tournament goes ahead.

“There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts,” Andrews said at a news conference late on Wednesday.

Victoria reintroduced the compulsory wearing of masks in indoor public places from Thursday while private gatherings were reduced from 30 people to 15.

About 1,200 players, coaching staff and officials arrived in Australia at the middle of last month for the year’s first Grand Slam and went into a mandatory 14-day isolation.

The players were allowed five hours outside for training but 72 of them were confined to hotel rooms for the two weeks after passengers on three charter flights taking them to Australia tested positive to the novel coronavirus.

The move infuriated stranded Australians overseas, 39,000 of which are struggling to get home amid the country’s strict arrivals cap of about 4,000 people per week.

Participants of the Australian Open were given the green light to begin exiting COVID-19 quarantine from end of last week with most of them involved at the ATP, WTA events at the site of the hardcourt major.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) said in a statement that a man, who worked his last shift at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne on Friday, returned a positive result on Wednesday.

“We are contacting all Australian Open players, officials and support staff who were staying at the Grand Hyatt during the entire period,” said CQV, the government agency overseeing the quarantine of participants ahead of the Grand Slam.

“At this stage there is no impact on the tournament proper,” Andrews added. “I must say (the Australian Open) is important to us but the issues are much broader and that is about public health and public safety.

“This is one case. There’s no need for people to panic. There’s no need for people to be alarmed.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney.

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