For Australians, mandatory hotel quarantine – which requires travellers to spend two weeks in hotel rooms immediately after arrival at a cost of $3,000 – has been a way of life since it became one of the first countries in the world to introduce the system in March.
Williams is quarantining in Adelaide but is allowed to train at a tennis court for five hours a day – unlike 72 other Australian Open players who were exposed to COVID-19 on special tennis charter flights into Australia and aren’t allowed to leave their hotel rooms at all.
“It’s super, super strict but it’s really good,” the seven-time Australian Open singles champion told ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ via video link.
“Last I heard Australia had zero cases of COVID so that is – it’s unbelievable right? That’s the whole country. That is really amazing.”
While calling the strategy “insane” and “super intense”, Williams praised the rule as “super good” and backed the Australian government for doing things right.
“Because after that you can have a new normal like what we were used to this time last year in the United States,” she added.
“It’s definitely hard with a three-year-old to be in the hotel all day but it’s worth it because you want everyone to be safe at the end of the day.”
As many as 72 players, including some of the world’s best, are confined to their hotel rooms in “hard isolation” for two weeks and are unable to train for the February 8-21 Grand Slam after some passengers on three charter flights ferrying them to Australia tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2019, complained the hotel confinement was “the same” as being in prison “but with Wi-Fi”, while world number one Novak Djokovic demanded players to be moved to “private houses with tennis courts”.
Paula Badosa became the first player entered for next month’s tournament to confirm a positive test while in hard quarantine in Melbourne.
Badosa, 23, arrived in Melbourne after playing in Abu Dhabi earlier this month and was on her seventh day in quarantine when she said her test came back positive.
Before testing positive, she moaned on Twitter about the hard quarantine, saying she didn’t think she should isolate, even though there was a positive COVID-19 case on her flight. Tennis Australia and other players, including Arem Sitek, insist participants were told about the risk of hard quarantine well before travel.
The number of positive COVID-19 tests linked to the Australian Open is now eight.
Mandatory hotel quarantine has been both a life-saving success, which has left Australia with an enviably low death toll on a global scale, and a costly failure, with breaches directly leading to the country’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, while tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad due to arrival caps of about 3000 people per week.
In May, Australia’s then chief medical officer claimed hotel quarantine had saved 14,000 lives, adding that the country could have reduced community transmission even further if it had introduced stricter controls earlier in the pandemic.
Australia has recorded more than 22,000 cases and 909 deaths from the novel coronavirus. It had no new local cases for the 10th straight day on Wednesday.
With files from HuffPost UK.
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