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COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne threatens Australian Open — What we all know

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All of Thursday’s scheduled tennis matches in Melbourne have been postponed after a hotel worker tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. 

Up to 600 players, staff and coaches are currently in isolation after being deemed close contacts.

Organisers for the various Australian Open lead-up events are currently planning to reschedule matches for Friday and onwards. 

Here’s everything we currently know about the situation.

MELBOURNE HOTEL COVID OUTBREAK — WHAT HAPPENED? 

A 26-year-old man who was working as a resident support officer in the Australian Open hotel quarantine has tested positive for COVID-19.

The man was working at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. He tested negative after his last shift on January 29, but has subsequently returned a positive COVID test. 

As a result, the Victorian government has reintroduced mandatory mask rules and have limited the number of visitors permitted in homes. 

IS THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN STILL GOING AHEAD? 

At this stage, yes. 

Although there are disruptions to the lead-up events, Andrews has stressed officials have still only discovered one positive COVID test. 

The Premier said the swift actions on Wednesday night are designed to stop an even bigger outbreak. 

With that in mind, the Australian Open is still going ahead on Monday. 

“At this stage, there’s no impact to the tournament (Australian Open) proper,” Andrews said. 

“We’ve got one case. We’re going to work very hard to keep numbers as low as we possibly can. Decisions have been made, and we’ll proceed as we can.”

On Thursday morning, Andrews added: “We all understand that there’s no guarantees in any of this, but at this stage, the tournament shouldn’t be impacted by this.

“These things can change.“

ARE TENNIS PLAYERS IMPACTED BY THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK IN MELBOURNE? 

Yes. 

Up to 600 players and support staff who were staying at the Grand Hyatt between January 16-29 have been deemed close contacts.

They all must go into isolation until they return a negative COVID-19 test. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN LEAD-UP EVENTS? 

All tennis has been cancelled for Thursday, throwing the ATP Cup, three WTA events (Yarra Valley Classic, Gippsland Trophy and Grampians Trophy) and two other ATP events (Great Ocean Road Open and Murray River Open) into disarray. 

Australian Open organisers confirmed the disruptions overnight. 

“Health Authorities have advised us that a Hotel Quarantine worker has tested positive for COVID-19,” a statement said.    

“Those associated with the AO who quarantined at the hotel now need to be tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result.

“We will work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible.  

“There will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday. An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later today.”

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews also confirmed up to 600 people connected to the tennis have been impacted. 

“There’s a number of — about 500 or 600 people — that are either players and officials and others who are casual contacts,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday.

“They will be isolating until they get a negative test. And that work will be done tomorrow (Thursday).

ARE ALL TENNIS PLAYERS IN MELBOURNE IMPACTED? 

No. 

Not all players currently in Melbourne have been deemed close contacts.

Although lead-up tournaments have been postponed, players who haven’t been ordered to quarantine are free to practice at Melbourne Park on Thursday. 

WHAT NOW? 

Tournament organisers will reschedule Thursday’s matches and have an updated plan later today. 

PREMIER DAN ANDREWS DENIED TENNIS PLAYERS ARE RECEIVING PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT

With 500-600 people in isolation, Andrews was forced to deny that tennis players are receiving preferential treatment during the current outbreak. 

“People are being treated no differently,” he said at a press conference on Thursday morning. 

“I was presented a list of demands from various tennis players and the answer was no. I think I’ve well and truly demonstrated they don’t get special treatment.

“People’s classification as to their risk and therefore the public health response, the stuff they have to do, they’re not judgements made by me, they’re judgements made by public health experts.”

THE REACTION 

There was some confusion on Wednesday night when news first broke about Thursday’s tennis shut downs. 

As usual, social media was where players published their thoughts. 

Jim Courier gave a decent breakdown about what was happening in Melbourne. 

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Steven Gregory