Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is among 24 players who are confined to their hotel rooms for the next 14 days after two positive coronavirus tests emerged from their charter flight to Melbourne.
The Australian Open has also said 23 players were on another flight that had been compromised by a coronavirus case. The flight was carrying 64 people and the positive case was not a player.
The Victorian government’s COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) confirmed an aircrew member and an Australian Open participant who is not a player, tested positive after arriving on the flight from Los Angeles on Friday morning.
The two have been transferred to a “health hotel”.
“All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts,” the CQV statement said.
“Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training.
“Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time.”
Players were originally given an exemption to leave their quarantine hotel to train for up to five hours a day, however an email from Tennis Australia confirmed all who were aboard the flight would now be in hard lockdown.
The email read: “Unfortunately we have been informed by the health authorities that two people on your flight from LAX that arrived at 5:15am on Friday 15 January have returned positive COVID-19 PCR tests on arrival to Melbourne.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period.
“We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support and do everything we can to get you through this.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley later issued a statement saying the 24 players who were on that flight will not be able to leave their hotels rooms for 14 days and until medically cleared.
“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,” Tiley said.
As well as Azarenka who won the title in 2012 and ’13, American Sloane Stephens and Japanese star Kei Nishikori were also on the flight.
Nishikori had COVID back in August.
All passengers were required to return negative tests within 72 hours of departure, but two tested positive upon arrival.
American Tennys Sandgren, who was cleared to fly when his recent positive test was deemed to be viral shedding, was also believed to be on board. But he isn’t linked to the new positives.
New York Times reporter Karen Crouse was on board the flight but was already in hard lockdown, without the player training exemption.
“Two positive COVID tests on the LA charter. I feel terrible for all the players aboard who now won’t be allowed to practise for the next two weeks except on the exercise bikes the Australian Open delivered to their rooms,” she tweeted.
She called for the names of those who tested positive to be made public and said she would reveal any change to her results.
“I promise you, if (when??) I test positive, which seems ever more likely now given the confines of a plane, I will let you know,” Crouse wrote.