Australian Open is thrown into chaos as 23 players fly to Melbourne with Covid case on board

The Australian Open has been thrown into further chaos after 23 players touched down in Melbourne on a charter flight with an infected passenger on board.

One traveller on board the flight from Abu Dhabi tested positive to coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the Australian Open said on Saturday night. 

There were 64 people on the aircraft, including 23 players.

‘All passengers from the flight are already in quarantine hotels,’ the sport event said.

The Covid-19 patient, who is not a player, has been taken to a health hotel. They tested negative to coronavirus before the flight. 

‘The 23 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared,’ a statement continued.

‘They will not be eligible to practise.’ 

The update on Saturday night comes just hours after it was revealed two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka iis among 24 players confined to their hotel rooms after two positive coronavirus tests emerged from their charter flight.

The Victorian government’s COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) confirmed an aircrew member and an Australian Open participant who is not a player, tested positive after arriving on the flight from Los Angeles on Friday morning.

The two have been transferred to a ‘health hotel’.

‘All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts,’ the CQV statement said.

‘Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training.

‘Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time.’

Players were originally given an exemption to leave their quarantine hotel to train for up to five hours a day, however an email from Tennis Australia confirmed all who were aboard the flight would now be in hard lockdown.

The email read: ‘Unfortunately we have been informed by the health authorities that two people on your flight from LAX that arrived at 5:15am on Friday 15 January have returned positive COVID-19 PCR tests on arrival to Melbourne.

‘The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period.

‘We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support and do everything we can to get you through this.’

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley later issued a statement saying the 24 players who were on that flight will not be able to leave their hotels rooms for 14 days and until medically cleared.

‘We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,’ Tiley said.

As well as Azarenka who won the title in 2012 and ’13, American Sloane Stephens and Japanese star Kei Nishikori were also on the flight.

Nishikori had COVID back in August.

All passengers were required to return negative tests within 72 hours of departure,


More to come  


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