Two people onboard a specially chartered flight into Melbourne for the Australian Open have tested positive for coronavirus, meaning players travelling with them will be confined to their rooms and unable to train for 14 days.
An aircrew member and an Australian Open participant who is not a player arrived on the flight from Los Angeles on Friday morning, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) said.
The passenger returned a negative result after a pre-departure test.
The two have been transferred to a “health hotel” after returning positive tests for COVID-19.
“All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts. Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training,” a CQV spokesperson said.
Under quarantine conditions ahead of the grand slam next month, COVID-negative players are allowed out of their hotel room for up to five hours each day to train.
The Australian Open confirmed 24 of the passengers were players.
Mexican player Santiago Gonzalez and Uruguayan player Pablo Cuevas were amongst players who posted on social media to confirm they were on QR7493 from LAX and would have to stay in their rooms.
“Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time,” the CQV spokesperson said.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said organisers are working to ensure players know what to expect.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”
Victoria recorded three new coronavirus cases on Friday, all in hotel quarantine, including the air crew member.
The remaining flight crew from the Friday morning flight tested negative, the CQV spokesperson said. They were allowed to fly out of Melbourne on a crew-only flight at 7:00am on Saturday.
The passenger result came through after midnight on Friday and will be counted in the figures announced tomorrow.
Some 1,240 players and support staff began arriving into Melbourne this week ahead of the tournament, and are being housed in special quarantine hotels.
They are required to return a negative COVID-19 test before flying into Australia, and are tested at the start and end of their 14-day quarantine.
People who test positive are moved into a health hotel and must be medically cleared before leaving quarantine.
Premier says hotel quarantine model is ‘highest standard’
Former world number one Andy Murray tested positive for COVID-19 just days before he was scheduled to arrive, and women’s world number 16 Madison Keys confirmed she had tested positive shortly afterwards.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said on Friday there was “no indication” either player would be able to come into Australia.
US player Tennys Sandgren was given an exemption to travel into Australia despite testing positive for coronavirus in November and again on Monday, after health officials assessed his history.
The arrangements to bring international travellers into the state for the tournament have been controversial while Victorians who had been in “red zones” are barred from returning home and strict caps are in place for Australians overseas wanting to come back.
Before the positive cases were reported on Saturday, Premier Daniel Andrews again defended holding the tournament, saying the grand slam’s status in Melbourne was not “chiselled in stone”.
“There are literally dozens of cities around the world that would pay almost anything to have a grand slam at our expense,” he said.
“We are simply not going to do that. We are running a hotel quarantine model to the highest standard, and they are the important decisions that have been made.”
He said the Australian Open has no impact whatsoever on the number of Australians returning from overseas that are coming into hotel quarantine in Victoria.
He also said the Victorian Government would have announcements to make “soon” about increasing the number of people who can come back to Victoria from overseas.