Plans to quarantine international tennis players and support staff in a luxury hotel in Melbourne during the Australian Open have been abandoned after residents threatened legal action against the government.
The Westin Melbourne, located in the city’s CBD, was one of several hotels Tennis Australia and the Victorian government had secured to house players and their entourages for 14 days of quarantine, prior to the grand slam starting on February 8.
But owners of the penthouse apartments inside the Westin said they were not consulted about the plan and some elderly residents were worried about health risks.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the government has found another hotel.
“We became aware on Sunday that there were some concerns that had been expressed by the residents in the apartments,” Ms Neville said.
“We were also concerned this may delay the standing up of the Australian Open so we’ve gone through a process of securing a new site.”
One of the owners, businessman Tony Schiavello, said they had never been consulted about the arrangements.
“On the top level, the 12th and 13th floors, there are many residents over 80 years old,” Mr Schiavello said.
Players would be driven to a separate facility to practice for up to five hours each day during the mandatory quarantine period, under strict bubble arrangements revealed by Tennis Australia last month.
Ms Neville said the cancellation of the contract with the Westin had been “mutually agreed” and that no compensation was being sought from residents.
Despite the decision, she said the government was absolutely confident in the infection prevention and control system that had been put in place.
“The residents are completely separate,” she said.
“We were confident in any of the health issues, but we didn’t want to end up in a fight with one of our key partners that we’ve used in the past.”
Resident David Marriner said the change of plan was a relief.
“The concerns were that we would’ve found it difficult to get separation, but in saying that, we weren’t provided the information that perhaps would’ve satisfied us in that request,” Mr Marriner said.
The government will publicly announce a full list of the contracted hotels to be used by players for quarantine next week.
Tennis Australia said it is working closely with Quarantine Victoria on suitable hotel options.
“Several hotels in Melbourne have already been secured, including a replacement for the Westin, to safely accommodate the international playing group and their team members as well as allow for them to properly prepare for the first grand slam of the year,” a statement from Tennis Australia read.
“The health and safety of everyone is our top priority.”
Australian Grand Prix facing delay
Meanwhile, the state government is still negotiating with organisers of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix amid speculation it will be delayed due to ongoing travel restrictions.
The season-opening race is scheduled to be held in Melbourne on March 21, but the F1 season could instead open a week later at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation continues to work closely with the Victorian government and Formula 1 on conditions and arrangements relating to the staging of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in 2021,” the corporation said in a statement.
“Further detail will be provided upon finalisation of arrangements with all parties in the coming weeks.”
Ms Neville said no decision has been made to cancel or delay the event.
“Those conversations are live and active, absolutely about the Grand Prix in 2021,” she said.
“Obviously, public health will be a key factor and how you quarantine, all of those issues.”