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Australian Open: 72 players in lockdown after COVID-19 positive cases on flights

Players won’t be allowed to leave their rooms nor can they practice for two weeks

aus-open-fed-gof-file-reuters [File] The Australian Open will begin in Melbourne Park from February 8 | Reuters

After a fifth person from the flights bringing players, coaches and staff members and media to Melbourne for the Australian Open tested positive for COVID-19, 72 players have been sent into hard quarantine.

The tournament organisers have confirmed that the latest positive case was a passenger, who was not a part of the playing contingent, on the flight from Doha to Melbourne. All passengers, including 25 players, are now in lockdown for 14 days.

Players have been restricted from leaving their rooms and going for practice for at least two weeks. Other players in less rigorous quarantine will be allowed to practice for five hours daily.

Earlier, 47 players were in quarantine after three people tested positive on a flight from Los Angeles and another from Abu Dhabi. However, no players have returned a positive test since landing in Australia.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and the 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori were reported to be on the flight from LA.

A few of the players have expressed apprehension after being classified as close contacts for being on board the flights, forcing them to go into hard quarantine.

But Victoria state’s COVID-19 quarantine commissioner Emma Cassar has said that the steps taken are necessary and had been made clear.

“If you’re on a plane 16-24 hours, with air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” Cassar said.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said players were forewarned there would be a “significant risk” of extra restrictions being imposed if there were positive COVID-19 cases.

“It’s a tough situation. We’ve got to do whatever we can to make it as fair as possible for those players that are in lockdown.”

The Australian Open will begin in Melbourne Park from February 8 after a three-week delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Crowd capacity at Melbourne Park will be limited.

With inputs from agencies

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