'Can't go ahead': Brutal backlash over Australian Open 'nightmare'

·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Daniel Andrews, pictured here addressing the media in Melbourne on Thursday.
Daniel Andrews addressed the media on Thursday to discuss the Australian Open situation. Image: Getty

There are fresh calls to cancel the Australian Open after a hotel quarantine worker in Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Six warmup events, including the ATP Cup, will not be played on Thursday at Melbourne Park after the worker from the Grand Hyatt Hotel returned a positive test.

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The Grand Hyatt had been used as one of the quarantine hotels for international tennis players and officials arriving for the Australian Open.

Up to 600 players and support staff will now have to isolate until they register a negative test, however Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer said the risk to players and their support staff was low.

Australia's Matt Ebden posted a photo to social media saying he'd had the test early on Thursday and was awaiting results before the scheduled start of the year's first grand slam on February 8.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said the risk to the tennis cohort was low.

“I think it's unlikely but we have asked for testing of all of the players and other people who have been in that hotel,” Cheng said on Thursday morning.

“We think the risk to other guests at the hotel, so tennis players and their accompanying staff, is relatively low because they were in the rooms at the time as opposed to staff who were outside the rooms.

“That said, the last case to leave the hotel for the health hotel left on the 22nd so we're now getting on to close to 14 days since that time.

“So we think that risk is relatively low so we're testing them to be sure, and it's precautionary.”

Cheng said it was “unlikely” the Open will be cancelled, but Premier Daniel Andrews warned it was an unfolding situation.

“The tournament proper should not be affected by this, (but) these things can change,” the premier said.

On Wednesday night, Mr Andrews rejected suggestions it was the worst-case scenario for the Australian Open.

“I wouldn't describe it in those terms,” he 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. At this stage, there's no impact to the tournament proper.”

Fresh calls to cancel Australian Open

Victoria’s Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien led renewed calls to consider scrapping the event on Thursday.

“We can’t afford to roll the dice on the Australian Open,” he told reporters.

“We don't want to see a situation as we did (last year) with the Grand Prix, where crowds were literally turning out to be let in, only to be turned away.

“The government needs to decide whether it is safe for the Australian Open to proceed.”

ABC News Breakfast host Paul Kennedy said: “There must be question marks over how (the tennis) can proceed.”

While Aussie tennis great Rennae Stubbs called it a “nightmare scenario” for the Australian Open.

“Fingers crossed we can trace the infected worker & get all the players back on court,” she tweeted.

Family contacts of hotel worker test negative

Mr Andrews announced on Thursday that two family contacts of the infected hotel worker have tested negative to coronavirus.

Health authorities have also spoken to 19 of 20 close contacts as testing sites in Melbourne's southeast experienced lengthy queues on Thursday morning.

“Early stages, but that is positive news,” Andrews said of the two negative tests.

More testing sites are due to be set up later in the day.

An empty Rod Laver Arena, pictured here at Melbourne Park on Thursday.
An empty Rod Laver Arena is seen at Melbourne Park on Thursday. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said “it's not rocket science” that the man caught the virus from a positive case in hotel quarantine.

Mr Andrews added there had been no obvious breach of hotel quarantine protocols, saying the infected worker was a “model employee”.

Professor Cheng said it was “unlikely” the Open would be cancelled but Mr Andrews warned the situation was still unfolding.

with AAP

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