An American tennis player is on his way to Melbourne on an Australian Open charter flight, despite testing positive for the coronavirus minutes before take-off.
Tennys Sandgren, a quarter-finalist in the 2020 Open, revealed on Thursday morning he had been allowed to board the plane, despite his positive test.
Sandgren, the world No.59, made the final eight at the 2018 Open and nearly beat Roger Federer in the 2020 quarters.
On Thursday, he said via Twitter he had tested positive for the virus after previously having it in late November.
“Covid positive over thanksgiving. Covid positive on monday. Yet pcr tests are the ‘gold standard’? At least I get to keep my points (laugh emoji),” he wrote.
Sandgren also tweeted that he wasn’t contagious.
“My two tests were less than 8 weeks a part. I was sick in November, totally healthy now.
“There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!,” Sandgren said.
The 29-year-old followed up by saying the Melbourne-bound plane had been held for him and he had been allowed to board.
“Wait hold on I think they are trying to get me on 15 min after the plane was supposed to depart.. my bags still aren’t checked lol,” he tweeted.
“Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long. [Australian Open boss] Craig Tiley is a wizard.”
Less than half an hour after that, American tennis writer Ben Rothenberg reported the flight from Los Angeles had been turned around on the runway.
“Heard from several passengers onboard now that the #AusOpen flight leaving from LAX has been forced to returned to its gate,” he wrote.
But by 1.45pm (ADST), the plane was in the air, bound for Melbourne.
The flight is one of 15 that will bring more than 1200 international players and support staff to Victoria from Thursday night, ahead of the Australian Open beginning on February 8.
Under Victorian government quarantine rules – described this week as the “strictest program in the world” – players and others involved in the tournament must return a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board one of the flights.
They will be required to stay in one of three Melbourne hotels and comply with a plethora of rules, including daily COVID testing.
Tennis Australia responded to Sandgren via Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
“Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months,” it wrote.
“Victorian government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights.”
Sandgren would also be subject to the standard daily testing in Melbourne, Tennis Australia said.
Later on Thursday, Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville also defended the decision. Health experts had deemed Sandgren’s positive test viral shedding his previous infection, she said.
“No one who is COVID positive for the first time – or could still be infectious – will be allowed in for the Australian Open,” she tweeted.
Tennis’ biggest names, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, will fly direct to Adelaide on a separate plane for a planned exhibition event before heading to Melbourne.