Sport Tennis Victoria touts security of Australian Open quarantine program

Victoria touts security of Australian Open quarantine program

australian open 2021
The first planeload of Australian Open participants and support crew will arrive in Melbourne on Thursday. Photo: Getty
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Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has defended a decision to welcome international tennis players to Melbourne, while banning Victorians in Sydney and Brisbane from returning to the state.

Victoria had no new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Tuesday, for the sixth day in a row, after receiving 18,139 test results in the 24 hours to midnight.

There were also no new cases in hotel quarantine.

About 1200 tennis players and people in their entourages are due to arrive in coming days to quarantine for 14 days ahead of the Australian Open.

Victoria’s new traffic-light permit system for travellers went live on Monday night, more than two hours later than scheduled.

Under that system, regional NSW has moved from a “red zone” to “orange”, meaning Victorians in those areas can come home.

Asked on Tuesday why the government was taking the risk of bringing more potential coronavirus cases into the state, Mr Foley said that while no system was perfect, Victoria had built the leading quarantine system in Australia.

He said the state had to engage with the world in a way that sustained both jobs and the health system.

“We think we’ve got the balance right in a way that protects Victoria’s iconic major events program but at the same time, first and foremost, keeps Victorians safe,” he said.

He said he did not believe there was any inconsistency in allowing tennis players to come from overseas to quarantine in Victoria while telling Victorians in hotspots in Australia to stay where they were.

“Each of the cases are assessed on their merits and, whether you’re a Victorian in greater Brisbane or greater Sydney at the moment, the public health advice advice is to stay there until such time as the epidemiological conditions make it safe for you to return,” he said.

“We’re reviewing that every day.

“The system that’s in place for hotel quarantine, whether that’s Australian Open players or others in Victoria, is a much more rigorous system on top of that again.”

Australian Open quarantine to be as strict as existing system

Earlier, Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said people coming to Melbourne from overseas for the Australian Open would be subject to the “strictest program in the world”.

Ms Neville said the first of 15 charter flights bringing 1200 players, support staff and tennis officials would arrive in Melbourne on Thursday at 5pm.

She said they would stay at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, the View hotel on St Kilda Road and the Pullman hotel in Albert Park for their two-week quarantine period.

In contrast, the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha, that wraps up on Wednesday, only required players to test negative before playing.

Two players have been forced out of the event after testing positive since the tournament began on January 10.

Ms Neville said the system would treat all tennis arrivals as if they could be a positive case and the program was being run in the same way as other quarantine hotels.

The participants would be tested before they departed for Australia, and those with positive results would be unable to board the flight.

If a positive test result was recorded mid-flight, the person would be immediately taken to a health hotel on arrival in Victoria, she said.

“Only after the second day, if they have tested negative, again when they’ve arrived here, will the player and their one support person be allowed to come to training,” she said.

The players would have one timed and supervised training session with one other person per day.

Each hotel would have a separate training facility to ensure there was no mixing between the hotels and anyone who left the quarantine hotels, such as the players and their support person, would get tested every day, similar to the testing regime for staff who work in the hotels.

Anyone who tested positive at any point would be moved to the Holiday Inn, which is being used as a medi-hotel.

Ms Neville said the program was being funded by Tennis Australia and had been signed off by the chief health officer.

“It is a two-week program that guarantees the future of the Australian Open for Victoria into the long term,” she said.

There are 38 active cases of coronavirus in Victoria, down from 40 on Monday.