Covid: Australian Open players frustrated by quarantine after positive cases

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-55693223

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Simona Halep arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament, Adelaide, Australia
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image captionAustralian Open organisers have insisted that the tournament will go ahead despite the coronavirus disruption

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.css-14iz86j-BoldText{font-weight:bold;}Several Australian Open tennis players have expressed frustration at being confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks after people on their flights tested positive for coronavirus.

Dozens of players will not be able to train as much as other competitors in the lead-up to the tournament, which begins in Melbourne on 8 February.

At least nine people – including one player – are infected, officials said.

Organisers said the event would go ahead as planned.

They insisted they had made the quarantine rules clear, despite objections from some players who said they might not have attended had they known the rules.

At least 72 players are stuck inside their rooms in hotel quarantine in Melbourne.

They were on three of about 15 chartered flights which have brought over 1,200 players, staff and officials to the tournament.

Top players such as Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Kei Nishikori, Angelique Kerber and the UK’s Heather Watson are among those affected, badly impacting their preparations.

One of the positive cases, a coach, said he was “sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders”.

Victoria state authorities have rejected a call from Novak Djokovic – the number one men’s player and a players’ representative – for some of the restrictions to be eased.

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What rules are the players complaining about?

All players taking part in the competition had to test negative before boarding flights and then be placed in designated Australian Open quarantine hotels in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Players are allowed out for five hours a day to practise on court, but those on the affected flights will not be allowed out of their room at all for 14 days.

Some players said they had not been aware of the rule that everyone on a plane had to isolate if someone on it tested positive.

Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan wrote on Twitter: “What I don’t understand is that, why no-one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated… I would think twice before coming here.”

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View original tweet on Twitter

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Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic tweeted that she decided to come based on rules sent to players beforehand but was presented with further rules on arrival.

Romanian player Sorana Cirstea wrote on Twitter that she thought she would only have to isolate if someone in her team tested positive.

However other players have said that while they’re disappointed with the disruption, they had been told the rules and understood the strict conditions.

French player Alize Cornet apologised on Twitter for previously describing the rules as “insane”.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Australian Open director Craig Tiley said he understood the “emotion” from players, but disagreed that the rules were not properly explained.

“We did make it very clear at the beginning. That’s why we had the player groups in cohorts. There was always a risk that someone would be positive and have to go into 14 days of isolation,” he said.

How did this situation come about?

Tournament organisers negotiated with the Australian government to have the Grand Slam take place this year, amid some debate over whether it should.

They arranged chartered flights for players and their teams to be transported to Melbourne and Adelaide ahead of the tournament. These flights have frustrated many Australians, who have not been able to return home because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.

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The first five coronavirus cases connected to the Australian Open were on flights arriving from Los Angeles in the US, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Doha, Qatar.

Three people – a crew member, a tennis coach and a member of a broadcast team – tested positive on the flight from Los Angeles on Saturday.

A passenger on the Doha flight tested positive on Sunday. French player Alexandre Muller tweeted the notification received by those on board.

Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, said he was the positive case on the flight from Abu Dhabi. He had tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before the flight’s departure.

“I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight,” he said in a statement.

Authorities did not disclose details of the four new cases reported on Monday, but said all were in hotel quarantine.

How will the players stuck inside prepare?

Georgian tennis player Oksana Kalashnikova said those stuck inside faced a disadvantage, despite Tennis Australia organising deliveries of training equipment and exercise bikes to them.

“The other players will have an advantage because we can’t really have the same amount of hours of practice, especially without tennis,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Several players have posted light-hearted videos on social media of them hitting rallies against their walls, windows and mattresses.

Local media reported that Djokovic had suggested players be moved into private homes with tennis courts, or located closer to their coaches on the same hotel floor.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said the players would not receive any “special treatment”.

“People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no,” he told reporters on Monday.

State officials said there had already been incidents of people – including one player – breaching the rules by opening their doors to talk to others on their floor.

Tournament organisers quashed rumours about a positive case on one of the two flights that brought the game’s biggest names into Adelaide.

While most players touched down in Melbourne, superstars including Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka instead flew into the South Australian city for an exhibition tournament.

The Australian Open had already been hit by the withdrawal of injured Roger Federer, while three-time major winner Andy Murray tested positive for the virus before departure so did not fly to Australia.

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