Players preparing for the Australian Open will have to isolate until they return a negative test for COVID-19 after a worker at one of the tournament’s Melbourne quarantine hotels tested positive for the virus.
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said he called a late-night news conference Wednesday to announce the case “through an abundance of caution,” although he did acknowledge new restrictions could impact hundreds of people associated with the Australian Open.
“It may have an effect on tomorrow’s play in the leadup event,” Andrews said. “At this stage, no impact on the tournament proper.”
There are six tuneup tournaments being held this week ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Monday. Any players, coaches or officials who quarantined at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne were deemed to be casual contacts of the 26-year-old infected man and required to isolate in their hotels until they’ve returned a negative test. Everyone in the city will be required to wear masks while indoors.
The hotel advertises it has 550 rooms, including 25 premium suites, so potentially hundreds of people associated with the tournament could be forced back into isolation. That could test the resolve of players who have recently come out of two weeks in quarantine, and give ammunition to critics of the decision to allow people to fly in from all over the world for the year’s first major.
Australian Open organizers didn’t immediately have details of how many players would have to isolate.
Up to 30,000 spectators are expected daily at Melbourne Park for the two-week Grand Slam event under existing guidelines. There was no indication late Wednesday that the 50% cap on capacity would be changed.
Everyone who arrives in Australia must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine under the COVID-19 pandemic regulations. The Australian Open used three hotels in Melbourne for the bulk of the players to quarantine and had other secure accommodation and facilities in Adelaide, South Australia state, for some of the biggest stars, including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Players were tested every day during quarantine and weren’t allowed to leave their hotels without a negative result.
The infected worker tested negative on his last day at the hotel on Jan. 29 but subsequently tested positive and has been working with government and health officials on contact tracing. Andrews said the man was in a medical facility and dozens of his close contacts were in mandatory isolation.
“This is one case. There’s no need for people to panic,” Andrews said. “There’s no need for people to be alarmed. We Victorians know what to do, and we have proven, as a state, very successful at managing these sorts of outbreaks, these sorts of issues.”
Earlier Wednesday, Victoria health officials announced that the state had gone 28 days without a case involving local transmission.
Australia has 909 deaths attributed to COVID-19, including 820 in Victoria state. Most of those were during a second deadly wave last year when a hard lockdown and overnight curfews were put in place in Melbourne.
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