Prime Minister Scott Morrison has jumped in to defend the handling of the Australian Open situation after officials were criticised for giving preference to tennis players over Australian citizens.
Some 72 players are in hard lockdown after a third chartered flight to the Australian Open returned a positive COVID-19 case.
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A further 25 Australian Open players were forced into quarantine on arrival in the country on Sunday ahead of the season’s first tennis major.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Monday that another four coronavirus cases, including one player, were linked to the charter flights from overseas.
It means six cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the grand slam event at Melbourne Park.
Victorian commissioner for Covid-19 quarantine Emma Cassar warned overseas athletes to abide by the strict quarantine protocols after a number of players were fined for flouting the rules with "dangerous" acts that she said the state "can't tolerate".
The warning comes amid growing criticism from within the Australian public, with the government accused of allowing thousands of players and staff to travel from overseas for the Australian Open, while other citizens of the country are unable to return.
The Prime Minister has scoffed at those suggestions after denying that tennis players are being given preferential treatment over citizens.
“No one is being prevented from coming home from overseas because of the Australian Open. That’s not happening,” the Prime Minister told 2GB radio on Monday.
“Their places are not being taken by tennis players, I can tell you that.”
The Victorian Premier says the Australian Open is actually helping to fund the state's plans to allow more travellers to return home to Australia.
“Tennis Australia are essentially paying for a system that will mean a whole bunch of staff are trained and will mean we are able to step up and take more returned travellers, more than we would otherwise take,” Andrews said.
“I have agreements with the prime minister about us doing more – that’s only fair - and we will have more than the numbers we’re getting that are coming back now, all of which are unaffected by the tennis.”
Aus Open dates won’t be changed
The Premier's comments come as frustration mounts that Victorians are being left stranded in New South Wales red zones, while international stars are allowed to fly into the state to quarantine.
Outspoken Liberal MP Tim Smith has slammed Premier Andrews over the issue, urging him to “bring the Victorians home or cancel the Open”.
All international players were originally given an exemption to train for up to five hours a day but the test results have forced the three affected flights into stricter quarantine under Victorian government orders, prompting complaints of unfair advantage for the others.
The coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Sylvain Bruneau, confirmed he was one of the positive cases.
Some players in hard lockdown are calling for the February 8 Australian Open start date to be pushed back to ensure they have adequate time to prepare.
But Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley ruled out another date change.
“We are planning on February the eighth ... and our intention is to continue with those dates,” Tiley told the Nine Network.
He said they would consider adjusting the schedule for the lead-in ATP and WTA tournaments which are due to start in Melbourne on January 31 and February 1.
The players will pocket a minimum $100,000 if they take part in the Australian Open main draw.
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