The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, January 20, 2021 1:00 am

2 players test positive after Aussie Open flights

DENNIS PASSA | Associated Press

Two players are among the three latest COVID-19 cases that have emerged from testing conducted on passengers who arrived on charter flights bringing people to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said the players weren't considered to be contagious, though, and hadn't been taken out of the regular quarantine hotels.

The first six positive tests were reported over the weekend and connected to flights from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Qatar.

All passengers on those flights, including 72 elite tennis players, were classified by local health authorities as close contacts of people infected with the coronavirus and forced into hard lockdown. That means they're not allowed to leave their hotel rooms for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. The six infected people, including a member of the aircrew on one flight and two coaches on different flights, were transferred to a medical hotel.

The Victoria state government announced three new positive tests on Tuesday, the first to involve players.

Tennis Australia declined to provide The Associated Press with a list of the 72 affected players, but many have made their status known via posts on social media.

More than 1,200 players, coaches, staff, officials and media arrived on flights in a 36-hour period until Saturday morning to prepare for the Australian Open, which starts Feb. 8.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said some of the cases linked to the tournament will be reclassified as “non-infectious shedding.”

But the state's chief medical officer, Brett Sutton, later said the reclassification was unlikely to mean any of the 72 players in lockdown — meaning they're not allowed to leave their rooms for daily practice sessions like the broader player group — could leave isolation early.

All people traveling to Australia for the tennis tournament had to return a negative test before boarding the charter flights, although there was at least one exemption in the case of the historic shedding.

Tiley, appearing on Nine Network television on Tuesday, rejected calls from some men's players to reduce Australian Open matches to best-of-three sets instead of best of five.

“We're a Grand Slam,” Tiley said. “Right now, three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to.”

He also defended Novak Djokovic for appealing to Australian Open organizers to ease restrictions in a list reported on Monday, including a request to shift as many players as possible in Melbourne to private residences with tennis courts.

Djokovic's requests were quickly refused by Andrews.

“In the case of Novak, he wrote a note, these weren't demands, they were suggestions,” Tiley said.

“But he, too, is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means ... every player coming down knew that if they were going to be close contacts or test positive that these were going to be the conditions.”


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