American tennis player Tennys Sandgren is bound for Melbourne after Tennis Australia intervened to be able to board a charter flight despite testing positive for coronavirus.
In a series of tweets on Thursday Australian time, Sandgren first suggested he would not be able to board the flight to the Australian Open, writing “Covid positive for Thanksgiving” and “Covid positive Monday. “.
Later, Sandgren, a quarter-finalist at last year’s Open, added that he appeared to be able to board the chartered flight before hailing Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley as a ” Wizard”.
“Wow, I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath for too long, ”he said in a tweet.
He then explained that his first positive test took place in November and that he was now “fully recovered”. “I was sick in November, perfectly healthy now. There is not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point.
The Australian Open suggested that health officials in Victoria had given Sandgren clearance to fly.
The tournament’s official Twitter account said people who had recovered and were “non-infectious may continue to spread the virus for several months.”
“Victorian government public health experts assess each case on the basis of additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in on charter flights,” the Open said. Australia.
“Players and their teams are tested every day upon arrival in Australia, a much stricter process than anyone else in hotel quarantine.”
Victorian government officials and tournament organizers have previously insisted that those who come to Australia for the Grand Slam must test negative. before leaving their country on charter flights. Tennis Australia has been contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria said it was common for people who tested positive and then recovered to “shed viral fragments for a period of time” which could “trigger another positive result”.
“Anyone who returns a positive test result has their medical and case history reviewed by a team of public health experts,” the spokesperson said. “Only those who are determined to be well and no longer be contagious will be allowed to travel to Australia.”
The government unit looked at Sandgren’s positive test and determined that he had recovered but was still shedding virus particles. He was then allowed to travel.
Professor Nigel McMillan, director of infectious diseases and immunology at the Menzies Health Institute, told the Guardian that people shedding the virus long after testing positive was “a well-known phenomenon”.
He said there were numerous documented cases of people who had recovered but still excreted the virus in feces or lung extracts even though “the virus turned out to be dead.”
While he did not comment on the decision to allow Sandgren to board the flight, McMillan described the tournament explanation as “logical and plausible.” Since Sandgren had tested positive in November, there was no reason to believe he was contagious “unless he has some kind of severe immune deficiency”.
Confusion over Sandgren’s Covid status came after Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews defended “extraordinary measures” the state was taking to host this year’s Australian Open, arguing Melbourne could lose the tennis Grand Slam forever if it doesn’t happen next month.
Andrews told reporters earlier on Thursday: “We cannot rule out that someone, any of the players or members of the team, has this virus. But just focus on what not having this event this year might mean.
The first group of around 1,200 players and staff were due to land in Melbourne on Thursday for the tournament, which is set to start on February 8, with warm-up events starting on January 31.
Andrews said the event was only taking place because state public health boards confirmed it was safe to take place.
“If the Australian Open doesn’t take place in Melbourne, it will happen elsewhere,” he said. “It will happen in Japan, it will happen in China, it will happen in Singapore. And the real risk is that it won’t come back.
The Premier of Victoria said the event created tens of thousands of jobs and that Victorian-era taxpayers spent around $ 1.5 billion over 10 years to build the tennis venue of Melbourne Park.
“On that basis, it is worth taking these extraordinary steps to make sure it can happen, but in a safe way,” he said.
Players and staff will be subject to a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine at three sites paid for by Tennis Australia. The proposed bubble is separate from the existing quarantine program for other international arrivals.
Competitors will only be allowed to leave their rooms for five hours a day – after a negative day two test – to go to the quarantined training venues as part of the Australian Open bubble. Other staff will be forced to stay in their room for the entire 14 days.
Players and staff are to be tested 72 hours before boarding a flight to Melbourne, will be tested daily in hotel quarantine, and anyone found infected with the virus will be transferred to a separate quarantine center.
While some experts questioned the decision to host the event, Deakin University Chair of Epidemiology Catherine Bennett told Guardian Australia on Tuesday that she broadly supported the measures the government had put in place. place to manage the event.
However, now is not the time for officials given that the federal government announced just last week that it would cut the number of international passengers allowed in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia by 50%. The decision was made in response to new variants of the virus emerging abroad.
Many Australians struggled to return home during the pandemic, often pushed out of the scarce and expensive flights that were available.
The decision to go ahead with the Australian Open has infuriated many Australians stranded abroad and unable to return home due to the lack of quarantine places.
In a post from Aussie’s Abandoned Abroad, Mark Acton said he and his wife attempted to return to Australia before his daughter gave birth to twins.
The two have repeatedly had thefts – one of which cost $ 6,000 – canceled and called their situation “ridiculous.” “Fortunately 1,200 tennis players and staff flew to the Oz Open !!” he wrote.
Another user posted a link to a news article on Victoria’s quarantine plans for the tournament, saying only, “I have no words… (Or at least none that I would be willing to post here). “
Others wondered how Tennis Australia managed to charter flights to bring players and staff to Melbourne from all over the world for quarantine when the federal government couldn’t.
“Tennis Australia could manage to organize 15 charter flights in such a short period of time from all over the world, but the Australian government cannot? Mind boggling! Or is it a question of money? one person wrote.
Tennis Australia said last week’s tickets sold at 35% of Melbourne Park capacity, with the district divided into three zones. The capacity could be changed, the athletic body added.