A third charter flight into Melbourne has become the latest headache for Tennis Australia after it received a positive case onboard forcing all 58 passengers, including 25 players, into a strict 14-day hotel quarantine.
The Qatar Airways flight QR7485 from Doha arrived in Melbourne on Saturday morning at 5:30 am with officials confirming the positive case on Sunday night. It is not clear whether it was a player or staff member who contracted the disease. Players will be unable to leave their rooms, even for training purposes, ahead of the Australian Open slated for February 8.
It is now the fifth Covid-19 case to arrive into Melbourne after charter flights arriving last week from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi also had confirmed positive cases despite those onboard requiring a negative test result 72 hours before departure.
Quarantined players have taken to social media to express their frustration, including world no. 53 Alize Cornet, who, in a since-deleted tweet, criticised the Victorian Government’s handling of hotel quarantine saying the situation is “insane” and that weeks of training was “going to waste”.
However, Twitter users were quick to respond to the player’s tweets, reminding her of the tough measures Victorian residents were forced to take to curb the virus less than two months ago. Cornet later retracted her comments and has since issued an apology.
In response to the strict quarantine, Novak Djokovic, who is currently preparing for the upcoming Adelaide International, has reportedly sent Australian Open boss Craig Tiley a list of demands for those in Melbourne’s strict lockdown. The baffling demands include a reduction in the days of hotel isolation, permission to interact with their coach and supporting team, and relocating players to private residences with tennis courts to facilitate training.
The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria, Emma Cassar, has previously stated these strict measures will not be altered. “The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances”.
Cassar also urged those who are considering flouting the rules of hotel quarantine to reconsider after it was confirmed two players were handed individuals fines breaking protocol by opening their doors to interact with hotel staff and fellow players.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate,” Cassar said in a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
The influx of international arrivals into Melbourne and Adelaide has triggered a backlash from the approximately 37,000 Australian’s still stranded overseas, desperately wanting to come home. In response, the Australian Government has recently announced 20 new charter flights to repatriate those stranded overseas over the next two months.
In a statement, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, “these flights will bring people back from the United Kingdom, Europe, India and other places where vulnerable Australians are most in need of assistance” and will “complement scheduled commercial services arriving in our international airports, which continue to provide the main avenue for Australians to return.”