Ten positive COVID-19 tests have now been recorded among people who have flown to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament, including two players whose results were confirmed today.
- Two players are waiting to see if their positive test results are deemed viral shedding
- Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut has apologised for comparing hotel quarantine to jail
- Lead-in events could be adjusted to allow for players who were unable to train
Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, said one of those new cases was a player who is in hard lockdown, and authorities believe their infection is not active, but shedding.
Ms Neville said another player and one of their support team have also tested positive and are unable to train until authorities can determine the status of their infections.
“In the meantime, the player, the support person and their bubble — so the other support person and player they’re with — will not be training until we have a final confirmation that they are shedding or that they are positive,” she said.
If they are positive, the player and their support person will go into the health hotel and their training partner and their support person will enter a hard quarantine as close contacts of a confirmed case, Ms Neville said.
The three new cases whose test results were received by the Victorian Government today will be reported in the official coronavirus numbers tomorrow, Ms Neville said.
Earlier, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the hotel quarantine system was working well.
“We’re in our sixth day and so far our numbers have been extremely low and if they are active cases they go straight to the medi-hotel,” he said.
Paramedics this morning responded to a medical emergency at the View Hotel, where many tennis players have been quarantined.
Ambulance Victoria said one person was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but did not reveal whether the person was connected to the tennis.
Player complaints still occupying Tennis Australia’s time
Tennis Australia has devoted considerable time to dealing with a vocal minority of players who have continued to complain about conditions in hotel quarantine.
Spanish player Roberto Bautista Agut issued an apology after he likened conditions in quarantine to being in jail, in a video he said was released without his consent.
In the video, Bautista Agut was critical of the Victorian Government, saying the quarantine arrangements were “a complete disaster”.
He later issued a statement saying it was a private conversation taken out of context and released to the media without his knowledge.
Russian player Yulia Putintseva drew criticism yesterday for an Instagram post in which she was seen holding a protest sign in her hotel room.
Putintseva later continued to complain about cleanliness standards, posting videos of mice in her hotel room.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said Ms Putintseva was moved to a different room in the hotel, and she understood the player had been feeding the mouse.
“We don’t send cleaners into those rooms … so every tennis player needs to clean their own room and change their own bed if they want to do that,” she said.
“I’d just encourage them to minimise interaction with the mice, we will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem.”
Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had to remind players that their complaints may not be well received in Melbourne.
“We’re doing the best we can to ask the players to be respectful of the Victorian community, who’ve been through a really tough time over four months of a lockdown, and paid significant prices in loss of life and also in jobs,” he said.
“It’s just one of those environments that we have to every single day talk to the players and ask them to respect that position.
“I believe the majority of them are, it’s just a select few that are not there yet.”
British player Johanna Konta spoke up during a conference call with hundreds of players earlier this week, urging them to be mindful of local sentiment and keep their complaints private.
She told Channel Nine that emotions were running high during the first few days of quarantine, and players were simply anxious about how they would perform after two weeks in a hotel room.
“A big part of that frustration for these players will be how well will they be able to perform and I think that just comes along with being a professional athlete and sometimes rationale doesn’t come into it,” she said.
“The reason we are here is to put on a show for the people of Australia, the people of Melbourne, and also the world stage.”
Quarantine bill to be paid in full by Tennis Australia
Ms Neville estimated the cost of quarantining players ahead of the Australian Open would run into the tens of millions of dollars, and said the bill would not be paid by the Government.
Earlier, Mr Tiley suggested to Melbourne radio station 3AW that the Victorian Government would help out with quarantine costs, but could not say how much they would contribute.
“Well that’s still to be determined — perhaps next week or the week after we’ll know that, whatever the quarantine costs end up being,” he said.
Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had exhausted its $80 million cash reserve and had taken out a loan to fund the costs associated with player flights and hotel quarantine, but Ms Neville said his claims about taxpayers funding part of the bill were not correct.
“Hotel quarantine for the Australian Open is fully funded by Tennis Australia. I’ve triple-confirmed that again today [after seeing that information], it is fully funded by the Australian Open,” she said.
Later, Tennis Australia confirmed it would pay for the quarantine program and explained the earlier reference to “government funding”.
“The Victorian Government support relates to ongoing discussions about funding for an extension to the agreement to host the AO in Melbourne and a range of other assets to help promote the city and the state, domestically and internationally,” a statement from Tennis Australia said.
She said while the Government supported the Australian Open “as an event”, as it does with all big events, the additional cost of the quarantine arrangements was being funded by Tennis Australia.
“The taxpayer is not contributing to the [Australian Open] hotel quarantine program,” she said.
Tennis Australia is yet to reveal whether allowances will be made in its schedule for the 72 players in hard quarantine, but Mr Tiley hinted that could be a possibility.
“I think how we can adjust is what happens in the lead-in events, how many lead-in events we have and when we start and what the schedule is for those players who need more time,” he said.