Pressure is piling on Premier Daniel Andrews and Victorian Government after all tennis stars on a flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne will be forced into strict quarantine after it emerged two people had tested positive for Covid-19.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is believed to be among a group of players that will be confined to their room for 14 days, and miss training ahead of the Grand Slam, after two people tested positive from a flight that arrived at 5.15am on Friday.
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The Herald Sun has reported an email has been sent to all players and officials who were aboard a flight out of Los Angeles, which stated they would no longer be able to leave their quarantine hotel to train.
The email read: “Unfortunately we have been informed by the health authorities that two people on your flight from LAX that arrived at 5:15am on Friday 15 January have returned positive Covid-19 PCR tests on arrival to Melbourne.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period.
“We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support and do everything we can to get you through this.”
The Victorian government’s Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) confirmed an aircrew member and an Australian Open participant, who is not a player, tested positive after arriving on the flight from LA on Friday morning.
The two have been transferred to a “health hotel”.
“All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts,” the CQV statement said.
“Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training.
“Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time.”
Mexican star Santiago Gonzalez took to Instagram to post a photo of the email before he confirmed he had tested negative.
Under original guidelines the players were permitted to leave their hotels for up to five hours to train.
As well as Azarenka who won the title in 2012 and '13, American Sloane Stephens and Japanese star Kei Nishikori were also reportedly on the flight.
All passengers were required to return negative tests before boarding the flight, but two tested positive upon arrival.
Fans were again questioning why the Australian Open was going ahead in Melbourne after the city was in lockdown over the pandemic only a few months back.
There were two positive COVID-19 tests on Santiago Gonzalez’s flight to Melbourne from LAX and everyone on it will have to quarantine for two weeks. pic.twitter.com/mS510fWiOJ
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) January 16, 2021
Going to be a fascinating next 24 hrs to see how many passengers from other #AusOpen chartered flights tested positive for Covid.
A major factor in players agreeing to come to Melb was being allowed to train 5 hours a day.
That’s out the window for those on LAX- MEL flight.
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) January 16, 2021
I love sport & the Aus Open is one of my fav events on the yearly calendar -but seriously- why is it going ahead? It’s absurd that players from countries where covid is rife have boarded planes together & arrived in Melbourne. Of course ppl were going to test positive on arrival!
— CowboyKate (@KateKatecornish) January 16, 2021
The Aus Open will cause another wave of Covid. There’s nothing more certain. #AusOpen
— Kyle Armstrong (@Guts_Army) January 16, 2021
If we need to keep this virus crushed, we must #CancelAO @DanielAndrewsMP. It must be done. We can't make any apology for keeping our people safe. 2 positive on the flights here in a contingent of 1200. This is not safe. #AusOpen #COVID19Vic
— Inconvenient Scholar (@InconvenientSc1) January 16, 2021
— David Thompson (@dave1835) January 16, 2021
Who would have thought a flight from the US would have positive cases. I have no issue with the Aus Open going ahead but these players and their staff should have been isolating for two weeks prior to arriving to minimise the risk of testing positive on arrival.
— Stacey (@_Stacey_Lee_) January 16, 2021
FFS trying to hold the Aus Open during a pandemic is rather stupid. https://t.co/pme08ncwED
— David Wunderlich (@defyadvanced) January 16, 2021
American Tennys Sandgren, who was cleared to fly when his positive test was not deemed to be contagious, was also believed to be on board. But he is not said to be linked to the new positives.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley later issued a statement saying the 24 players who were on that flight will not be able to leave their hotels rooms for 14 days and until medically cleared.
“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tiley said.
Daniel Andrews under pressure over Aus Open
The state government has been criticised for holding the tournament amid a pandemic, with 1200 international players and officials given an exemption to fly into Melbourne from Thursday night to Saturday morning.
Tournament organisers spent several months negotiating an arrangement that was acceptable to local and national government agencies regarding the admission of the enormous international cohort.
Players have begun arriving in Australia and they will complete a two-week period of quarantine, during which they are allowed out of their rooms to practice for five hours a day.
On Thursday, Andrews defended the decision to allow the tennis players and officials into the country at such a critical time in the fight against coronavirus, saying Australia risked losing the lucrative event.
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