Preparations for the 2021 Australian Open have been rocked by the news that a pair of charter flights carrying 47 of the players have been hit with a Covid-19 outbreak, forcing the players into quarantine ahead of the tournament.
An initial statement from the tournament organizers was posted to social media that laid out the early circumstances of the situation, as 24 players were forced into isolation ahead of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year after a first flight returned positive tests.
“Two positive COVID-19 tests were returned from one of the charter flights to Melbourne in the past 24 hours,” the statement began.
“There were 79 people on the flight, including 67 passengers, of which 24 are players.
“The two positive tests have been returned by a member of the flight crew and a passenger who is not a player, who returned a negative test within 72 hours prior to boarding the flight.
“All passengers from the flight are already in quarantine hotels and the two positive cases transferred to a health hotel.
“The 24 players on the flight will not be able to leave their rooms for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practise.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tilley explained how organizers are addressing the situation, saying: “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.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”
But things went from bad to worse for tournament organizers later on Saturday when it was confirmed that a passenger on a second flight carrying a further 23 players had also registered a positive Covid test.
A follow-up statement explained the situation, with the same quarantine process in place for the additional 23 players affected.
It means that all 47 players, who have been unnamed, will be forced to spend two weeks isolated in their hotel rooms, unable to loosen up and have regular practce sessions until the week before the tournament.
The Australian Open qualifying rounds are currently underway, but the main tournament gets started on February 8 and runs through to February 21.