COVID-19: Australians angry as elite tennis players arrive in country despite travel restrictions
A group of elite tennis players will have to self-isolate for 14 days after two flight passengers tested positive for coronavirus – as Australians expressed anger that they were allowed in the country while thousands are stranded abroad.
A chartered plane carrying tennis players and officials arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open next month.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement on Saturday a crew member and an Australian Open participant, who is not a player, had tested positive for COVID-19.
The two people, who have not been publicly identified, have been taken to a health hotel where they will have to self-isolate.
Players and officials were supposed to have received a negative COVID-19 test before they boarded the flight.
It comes as roughly 37,000 Australians are waiting to return to the country, Sky News Australia reports.
The country has a weekly cap on the number of international arrivals during the pandemic – with people having to undergo quarantine in a designated facility.
After tennis stars were allowed to enter the country ahead of the tournament, angry Australians have been sharing their views on Twitter using the hashtag #strandedaussies.
One Twitter user wrote: “Thousands of Australian citizens are still stranded overseas. I’ve been a huge tennis fan for close to 40 years, but this is just wrong. I will not be supporting this Australian summer of tennis.”
A Twitter user named Jamie wrote: “Letting in 1,200 tennis players and their entourage feels like a Cummings moment; the point where the Victorian government can no longer claim it’s just about the science.
“This is a risky choice, and what hurts is that they’d take that risk for sport but not for #strandedAussies.”
Twitter user Allison Bradwell wrote: “Amazing how all these special quarantine arrangements can be put in place for sports stars & students but they can’t be used for #strandedAussies. Do better
Australian Open organisers spent several months negotiating an arrangement that was acceptable to local and national government agencies regarding the admission of more than 1,000 tennis players and associated personnel to the country.
Players began arriving in the country on Thursday ahead of a two-week quarantine period, during which they are allowed out of their rooms to practise for five hours a day.
However the players and support staff on the affected flight from Los Angeles have been deemed close contacts and will not be allowed out to train.
Victoria state’s health department said in a statement: “All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts.
“Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training.
“Upon arrival to Australia all players are immediately placed in a secure quarantine environment for 14 days under the authority of Covid Quarantine Victoria and will undergo a more rigorous testing schedule than for most returning travellers.”
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was reported by local media to be among a group of players set to be under the strictest quarantine for two weeks.
Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper reported earlier that an email was sent to all players and officials who were aboard the flight stating that they would no longer be able to leave their quarantine hotel to train.
That would mean the only workouts they’d be able to have would be on an exercise bike left in the rooms of all of the players.
The coronavirus-delayed Australian Open begins on 8 February in Melbourne.
Five-time finalist Andy Murray‘s status for the tournament was put in doubt after he tested positive for COVID-19 only days before his planned flight to Melbourne.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, who was given a wild card for Melbourne, is isolating at home in Britain.
Australia is considered to have done a good job of containing the coronavirus, with only 909 deaths nationally.
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