Government officials have moved to assure Victorians that players in next month’s Australian Open will be subjected to the strictest quarantine arrangements for a tennis tournament anywhere in the world.
Players have been warned of severe penalties, including possible criminal sanctions, if they or a member of their team break quarantine.
About 1200 players, officials and support staff will be tested for COVID-19 before travelling to Melbourne on 15 charter flights that will arrive from Thursday evening.
The participants will quarantine in three Melbourne hotels – the Grand Hyatt, Pullman Albert Park and View Melbourne – for two weeks before the Australian Open begins on February 8.
They will be permitted to leave their hotel rooms for up to five hours a day for training and treatment, in order to reduce the risk of injury, and will do so in a secure training bubble overseen by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria staff.
Dedicated training venues have been set up at Melbourne Park, the National Tennis Centre and Albert Reserve – each linked to a specific quarantine hotel.
Participants in the training bubbles will only be allowed to access training facilities from day two of their quarantine periods, and only once they have returned a negative coronavirus test.
They will be tested every day while in quarantine.
Once participants have completed quarantine, they will no longer be subjected to mandatory coronavirus testing, unless they display symptoms.
Participants who test positive to COVID-19, as well as anyone identified as a close contact, will be transferred to a health hotel and will not be allowed to take part in the Australian Open until they have returned a negative test result.
Victoria’s Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville told reporters on Tuesday the quarantine program for Australia Open participants is “identical” to that being run at other mandatory quarantine hotels for the general public, with the exception of tennis training provisions.
“We are assuming that every single tennis player that arrives … has the potential to be positive,” Neville said.
“Our program has been designed around that potential and how we ensure that, if there is a positive case, that there is no risk to the Victorian community.
“We have put in place the strongest and strictest rules that apply for tennis across the world.”
Neville’s comments on Tuesday came after it emerged two players at the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha – Denis Kudla and Francisco Cerundolo – had tested positive to COVID-19 and been rushed into quarantine.
Players, officials and participants who do not receive a negative test result before landing in Melbourne will be taken to separate health hotels on arrival, along with the close contacts they have travelled with.
Six of the world’s top players will be amongst a smaller cohort that serves its quarantine period in Adelaide as they contest an exhibition tournament in the lead-up to the Australian Open.
They will then be granted permits to enter Victoria.
Limits to be imposed on crowd numbers at the Australian Open are still yet to be decided.