Tennis Australia confirms it will pay for players' quarantine as cases linked to Australian Open rise

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Tournament organisers clarify comments made by Craig Tiley that the Victorian government would share quarantine costs

  • NSW hotspots; Queensland hotspots
  • State-by-state restrictions and lockdown rules explained
  • Australian Open tennis players train in a restricted area near their Melbourne accommodation. A total of 72 players remain in hard lockdown and are not allowed out of their hotel room to train for five hours a day like other quarantining players.
    Australian Open tennis players train in a restricted area near their Melbourne accommodation. Dozens of players deemed close contacts of positive Covid cases are in hard lockdown and are not allowed to leave their hotel room to train for five hours a day like other quarantining players. Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters

    Tennis Australia has backtracked from comments made by its chief executive, Craig Tiley, that the Victorian government would foot part of the bill for quarantining Australian Open players, coaches and officials.

    The organisation was forced to clarify the details after Tiley told radio station 3AW on Wednesday morning that the state government was contributing to an expected $40m in quarantine costs.

    Tiley did not put a figure on the government’s share. “That’s still to be determined because we’re still in the middle of that,” he said. “Probably the end of next week or the week after we’ll know exactly.”

    The comments prompted a sharp rebuke from the Victorian police minister Lisa Neville, who insisted Tennis Australia – and not taxpayers – would foot the entire bill for quarantining those associated with the Australian Open, as the number of positive Covid-19 cases linked to the tennis tournament grew to 10.

    “Hotel quarantine for the Australian Open is fully funded by Tennis Australia, I’ve triple confirmed that again today,” Neville said. “I want to be really clear about this.”

    Neville said Australians returning home from overseas had to pay for their own quarantine, so it was only appropriate that players do the same.

    In a statement issued late on Wednesday afternoon Tennis Australia conceded “Tennis Australia is funding the AO [Australian Open] quarantine program”.

    “The Victorian government support relates to ongoing discussions about funding for an extension to the agreement to host the AO in Melbourne and a range of other assets to help promote the city and the state, domestically and internationally,” the statement said.

    The minister announced there were three new Covid-19 cases linked to the grand slam recorded on Wednesday morning – two players and one support person. That took the cases linked to the tournament to 10, though Neville said one of the players could be reclassified as a historical case.

    Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, confirmed later on Wednesday that one person had indeed been reclassified as a historical case. He said the three new cases were also under review to determine if they were current infections.

    A total of 72 players remain in hard lockdown after being deemed close contacts of positive Covid cases on three charter flights into Melbourne from Abu Dhabi, Doha and Los Angeles.

    The latest suspected shedding case is already in hard lockdown which means they are not allowed out of their hotel room to train for five hours a day like other quarantining players. The other two cases are now in hard lockdown, along with everyone in their training bubble.

    The chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, Prof Catherine Bennett, said despite the increase in cases associated with the Open, there was little risk of spread to the community.

    “There’s probably not a big difference in risk of getting the virus between those allowed to train and those in harder lockdown,” Bennett said.

    She said testing players daily was key to ensuring any cases were detected as early as possible.

    “That’s really smart and that’s more than what other countries hosting events have done. And so if someone’s got enough virus to test positive, then you’re catching them probably on their first day of being infectious.”

    Meanwhile Kazakh tennis player Yulia Putintseva, ranked world 28th, complained about a mouse in her quarantine hotel room on social media. There were “a lot of” the pests, Putintseva said on Twitter, sharing footage of the culprits, and revealing she had changed rooms only to find more.

    In response, Twitter users gave her advice such as, “Only on rare occasions mice attack humans, you should be fine,” and “Ask for a mouse trap or have a taxi go get one and deliver it to the hotel.”

    Neville had some advice too, saying players should “minimise interaction with the mice”.

    “We did, firstly, move the particular tennis player … I just encourage them to minimise interaction with the mice, we will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem.”

    Meanwhile, no cases of community transmission of Covid-19 were recorded in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland on Wednesday. The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said it meant restrictions may ease in one week if the trend continued.

    But people should expect masks to remain compulsory in some settings, such as supermarkets and public transport, she said.

    “The reason why we might take that approach in terms of the mask wearing is because we’re still looking at the impacts of the contagious strains of the virus that are emerging,” she said.