Mixed messages and an unknown quarantine, who’s to blame for the Melbourne Mess?

Players have only been in Melbourne for a few days but things risk getting quite messy if they weren’t already. Three positive tests recorded on arrival on two flights from Doha and Los Angeles have forced 47 players into an isolation they claim they knew nothing about.

Of the three positive tests non have been confirmed as a player but Bianca Andreescu’s coach has confirmed he is one of the three.

It broke in the early hours of Saturday morning that players were made aware of this and shared their displeasure on social media but how did they not know this.

What we did know what that players would isolate on arrival in Melbourne but the agreement with the Victorian Government was that players isolating on arrival will be allowed to go Melbourne Park for five hours a day to practice and use the gym facilities.

Since these on-board positive tests this is now not an option for the 47 players on those two flights and will be confined to their hotel room.

Many players have taken to social media to voice their displeasure at a situation where they cannot now prepare properly for the first major of the year and once isolation is complete for them there will be eight days until the Australian Open begins.

The main sell to players was that they could still practice whilst isolating and Craig Tiley in October even said a player can’t isolate and jump straight into a major.

“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,”

“You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam.”

However, this is now what they have to do.

On their quarantine and travel information document which was last updated on the 17th of December the guidance by Tennis Australia for Close contact on flights was:

We continue to work with the Victorian Health Department and Chief Health Officer on ways to minimise the impact on other passengers in the even someone tests positive upon arrival.

Possible solutions we are exploring with them are setting up bio zones on each charter flight and having COVID Marshalls on board to ensure compliance.

We will update as we have any further information, however one way to mitigate the risk is for all passengers to isolate for the 48 hours between returning a negative test and boarding the flight.

Correctly used PPE such as masks and advanced hygiene protocols at the airport, in transit and on the flight will also be important factors in helping make the case for not classifying entire flights as close contacts.

It doesn’t look like an update was sent out prior to travel but is apparently in the guidance booklet in players’ hotel. It is worth also mentioning players were pictured on planes either not wearing masks at all times or not wearing them correctly so you can understand the decision that all must isolate.

The guidance from the Victorian Government on close contact is pretty clear:

A close contact is:

  • face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed or probably case, for 15 minutes or more. This is cumulative over the course of one week. It starts from 48 hours before the onset of symptoms in the confirmed or probable case.
  • Sharing of a closed space with a confirmed or probable case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours). This is in the period extending from 48 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed or probable case.

It goes onto say:

You must stay in quarantine for the entire 14 days to stop the spread of the virus.

If you leave quarantine before the end of the 14 days you may face criminal charges or a fine.

The question is, how did Tennis Australia not publish this sooner when it’s been known for some time? How did the guidance not match?

It is an absolute mess of a situation, how do Tennis Australia recover from this? How can an athlete sit in a room with no practice court or gym facilities and go and play a Grand Slam is chaos. Can they move it back?

What hasn’t helped the situation is the privilege of the Adelaide Six.

Funnily enough we don’t know the final member of the six yet but we all knew this would cause trouble. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep and Serena Williams were invited to Adelaide to do their isolation where they can play an exhibition at the end of the month but with more privileges.

The Adelaide Six are also allowed 5 hours practice a day however they have full access to a 24/7 gym and are allowed up to five team members where as those in Melbourne can only bring two. Players could also bring a hitting partner with their full team with Venus Williams joining Serena and Dennis Novak teaming up with Dominic Thiem.

Players are said to be extremely unhappy with this and the latest revelations wouldn’t have helped.

Access to Melbourne Park has been pushed back to Monday for players but those in Adelaide have already been out for a hit.

Overnight it has been unofficially announced that a third plane has recorded a positive COVID-19 test coming in from Doha on Saturday. Players have posted a screenshot of the email they’ve been sent asking them to isolate.

Who is to blame? Should have Tennis Australia communicated better before players departed? Should Players’ teams and agents have looked into this before travelling?

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