The 39-year-old, who’s been one of 1,200 people isolating in Adelaide before the Australian Open tournament begins next month, said she and her three-year-old developed a new routine to count down till Friday, January 29, when they could finally leave their hotel and go to the zoo.
“We went to the zoo because we had a calendar in our room,” said Williams in a press conference on Friday. “Every day we marked an X on the day that went by and a big circle on the quarantine ending day, and we promised her that we would take her to the zoo to see koalas and kangaroos.”
The seven-time Australian Open singles champion said she’s “so glad quarantine is over” but appreciated the quality time with her daughter over the past fortnight.
“I’m so glad the quarantine is over, because to be in a room with a three-year-old and being her best friend is definitely difficult, especially after training and working out, and then it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it never ends’,” she said.
“But honestly I wouldn’t trade anything spending hours with her on hours. It was really fun.”
Until Friday, Williams was quarantining in Adelaide but was 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 tennis charter flights to Australia and haven’t been allowed to leave their hotel rooms at all to train for the February 8-21 tournament.
In an interview on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ earlier this week, she praised Australia’s strict hotel quarantine system for international arrivals, calling it “insane” and “super intense” but necessary.
“It’s super, super strict, but it’s really good,” she told 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.”
The number of positive COVID-19 tests linked to the Australian Open is now eight.
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.
It has been both a lifesaving 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 3,000 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.
Never miss a thing. Sign up to HuffPost Australia’s weekly newsletter for the latest news, exclusives and guides to achieving the good life.