‘Can’t roll the dice’: Aus Open backlash
Victorians are questioning whether it was a good idea to host the Australian Open after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive to the coronavirus and the state's 28-day virus-free streak came to an end.
Preparations for the Australian Open were thrown into chaos Wednesday when up to 600 players and officials were told to isolate and get tested after a 26-year-old worker at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt returned a positive test.
New rules are in place following the announcement at 10.30pm on Wednesday, including mandatory mask wearing indoors and gatherings restricted to 15 people.
All play at five ATP and WTA warm-up tournaments as well as the ATP Cup event featuring the world's top players in Melbourne has been cancelled as a precaution.
"There will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday. An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later today," the Australian Open said on its Twitter account.
Victorians who suffered through one of the world's hardest lockdowns in 2020 before defeating a second wave are now rightly wondering whether it was wise to allow 1000 players, coaches and officials to jet into Melbourne.
"There must be question marks over how (the tennis) can proceed," ABC News Breakfast co-host Paul Kennedy said on Thursday.
Others called for the event to be cancelled.
Cancel the #AustralianOpen. The pandemic is more important.— Tim Denning 🇦🇺 (@Tim_Denning) February 3, 2021
Music festivals with local bands barely keeping afloat. Theatre written by local playwrights and starring local actors bending over backwards to perform to limited audiences. Yet we fly in untold amounts of tennis players for a sporting event we're clearly not yet equipped for??— Marieke Hardy (@mariekehardy) February 3, 2021
Victoria's Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien told reporters on Thursday: "We can't afford to roll the dice on the Australian Open."
Former doubles champion Rennae Stubbs called it a "nightmare scenario". She said she was hoping it was possible to "trace the infected worker and get all the players back on the court".
Nightmare scenario for the @AustralianOpen officials & player’s today. Fingers crossed we can trace the infected worker & get all the players back on court. I can’t imagine the lack of sleep for both @CraigTiley & the tournament doctor @carolyn_brod ...hang in there everyone ❤️— Rennae Stubbs OLY (@rennaestubbs) February 3, 2021
Calls to cancel the first Grand Slam tournament of the year were being heard well before players began arriving in January.
But the Premier Daniel Andrews is confident play will go ahead as usual, with crowds up to 30,000 each day at Melbourne Park.
"At this stage, there's no impact to the tournament proper," Mr Andrews told reporters.
"There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts.
"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow."
Despite the huge logistical exercise of holding a major tennis tournament during a pandemic, Mr Andrews said sport was not the most important issue.
"I must say that is important to us but the issues are much broader and that is about public health and public safety," he said, but added: "This is one case, there's no need for people to panic."
With test results generally returned within 24 hours, he said he did not expect the precautionary move to affect Monday's scheduled start of the Australian Open.
For players, Wednesday's news was a blow. Some players only emerged from the strict lockdown over the weekend.
Health officials said the man, from Noble Park, was tested at the end of his shift on January 29 and returned a negative result.
He subsequently developed symptoms and was tested again on February 2, with his result coming back positive late Wednesday.
Victoria had gone 28 days without a locally acquired infection. The new case prompted a tightening of rules around mandatory mask wearing and a reduction in the limits of how many visitors are allowed in homes.
Daily crowds of between 25,000 and 30,000 are expected to be allowed to watch the Australian Open, equating to some 390,000 spectators across the two-week spectacle - around half the attendance of last year.
- with AFP
Originally published as 'Can't roll the dice': Aus Open backlash