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January 18, 2021

Australian Open preparations rocked by fourth Covid case

Sports

P
Pa
January 18, 2021

LONDON: A fourth positive coronavirus case has been recorded from Australian Open charter flights carrying athletes and their support teams into Melbourne for the first grand slam of the year.

Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar revealed the news on Sunday, adding the positive test was returned by a broadcast team member on a charter flight from Los Angeles.

Two other people on that flight had earlier tested positive, while another case was detected on a flight from Abu Dhabi.

Cassar said: “It’s important to note that all the four positives all had a negative test result prior to boarding the plane. I can confirm that all player and training partner test results are now in.”

The new case comes after Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley insisted players were made aware of the risks of being put into isolation on arrival in the country.

A total of 47 players have been told they will have to stay in their hotel rooms for 14 days following the positive tests.

Cassar said some “low level” quarantine breaches among players had been reported, including “a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway”.

She added: “He’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk. It is really low level but really dangerous acts which we just can’t tolerate.”

Tiley and his team worked for months to secure an agreement whereby players would be allowed out of their rooms for five hours each day during the two-week quarantine in order to practise and do gym work but those carefully worked plans are now in tatters. A number of players reacted to the news with shock and anger on social media, and Tiley was sympathetic to those feelings.

He told Channel 9 TV: “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 in order to keep our community safe.”

Britain’s Heather Watson is among the 47 along with grand slam champions Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu, whose coach Sylvain Bruneau revealed he was the source of one of the three positive tests. The players should be out of isolation before the week of warm-up events begins on January 31 but they will clearly not be in peak condition to compete.