The Australian Open is likely to go ahead in Melbourne next week, despite the worrying leak of the coronavirus from tennis quarantine.
Warm-up matches for the first grand slam of 2021 were cancelled on Thursday after more than 500 players and support staff who were quarantining at a Melbourne CBD hotel, the Grand Hyatt, were sent into isolation when the hotel worker’s case emerged late on Wednesday.
COVID Quarantine Victoria set up special clinics on Thursday for them all to be tested as soon as possible. The affected “casual contacts”, who include 160 Australian Open players, will remain in isolation until they return negative tests.
Australia’s Matt Ebden posted a photo to social media saying he’d had the test early on Thursday and was awaiting his result.
Earlier, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Professor Allen Cheng, said the risk to players and their support staff was low.
The hotel worker, who was on the same floor as infected guests, worked his last shift on Friday, returning a positive result on Wednesday.
“I think it’s unlikely but we have asked for testing of all of the players and other people who have been in that hotel,” Professor Cheng said.
“We think the risk to other guests at the hotel, so tennis players and their accompanying staff, is relatively low because they were in the rooms at the time as opposed to staff who were outside the rooms.
“That said, the last case to leave the hotel for the health hotel left on the 22nd so we’re now getting on to close to 14 days since that time.
“We’re testing them to be sure, and it’s precautionary.”
Professor Cheng said it was “unlikely” the Open – which is due to start on February 8 – would be cancelled, but Premier Daniel Andrews was more cautious, warning it was an unfolding situation.
“The tournament proper should not be affected by this, [but] these things can change,” the said.
The Australian Open has become contentious among some Victorians, who have been wary of the risks of flying a large number of international guests into Melbourne.
But Mr Andrews said the state government had done all it could to ensure the tournament could go ahead in the safest way possible for players and the public.
“I think I have well and truly demonstrated that those connected to the Australian Open do not get special treatment,” he said.
Despite the controversy, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley was confident the grand slam would begin as scheduled.
“We are starting on Monday,” he said on Thursday afternoon.
“There’s no intention of changing the time for the Australian Open.”
Tennis Australia expects to have finalised a revised schedule for its warm-up matches by Thursday night.
Mr Tiley said all players and support staff were expected to have been tested by 5pm Thursday, with results available either later in the day or early Friday.
“Their support has been remarkable and we have been greatly appreciative of that. They got up early, started testing, went back to their rooms, isolated,” he said.
“They’ll receive direct text messages from Health on their tests being positive or negative. They have been great. Their intention is they’re here for the Australian Open.”