Back

Positive COVID-19 Test At MCG Boxing Day Test Raises Questions For Australian Open

A
fter a positive COVID-19 case from a fan who attended the MCG Boxing Day Test between Australia and India, Tennis Australia has assured Australian Open plans are still on track.

The Victorian government, following the positive COVID-19 result at the MCG, has said it will now review COVID-safe measures for upcoming Big Bash League (BBL) matches and the Australian Open.

Deputy chief health officer, Allen Cheng, said the Australian Open, with its new start date of February 8, still has some time to ensure it is run smoothly and COVID-safe.

“I think we’re going back through all the major events that are planned in the next couple of weeks and just looking at some of those again just to make sure,” Cheng said.

“With the Australian Open, we still have a little bit of time,” he said.

The positive COVID-19 case at the MCG is the latest setback for the Australian Open organisers, who recently had a luxury hotel quarantine contract for the event cancelled due to resident concerns.

The owners of the Westin Melbourne reportedly said they were not consulted about the plan and were worried about the health risks associated with players and support staff using the hotel to quarantine for 14 days before the Open begins.

Despite this, Police Minister, Lisa Neville, said the Victorian government had secured a new hotel.

“We became aware on Sunday that there were some concerns that had been expressed by the residents in the apartments,” Neville said.

“We were also concerned this may delay the standing up of the Australian Open, so we’ve gone through a process of securing a new site.

“The residents are completely separate.

“We were confident in any of the health issues, but we didn’t want to end up in a fight with one of our key partners that we’ve used in the past,” she said.

Despite the disruptions, Tennis Australia is still planning on hosting up to 25% spectator capacity for the first Grand Slam of 2021, with plans to split Melbourne Park into three separate precincts to ensure the safety of fans.

Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley, told Nine fans buying a ticket for any of the three zones will be restricted to the zone for the entire day.

“People will see when they come on-site that it’ll be a very different experience,” Tiley said.

“The site will be divided up into three zones, but the entertainment and the experience that you get in each zone will be special.

“It’ll be like nothing we’ve had before, there will be a Margaret Court Arena zone, a Rod Laver Arena zone, and a John Cain Arena zone.

“You’ll be able to see matches on outside courts, matches in the stadium with the best players in the world, as well as enjoying premium food and hospitality.

“That’s designed so if we have to get to a contact tracing point, we’re able to do it very quickly with smaller numbers.

“All along we’ve said we need to ensure the safety of not only the fans, but for the community, as well as the players, and we believe we have the processes in place to ensure that is the case,” he said.

Speaking to 3AW, Tiley did not however rule out the potential for the crowd numbers to change just one month out from the start of the tournament, saying: “We would follow the advice of the government at that time and if they decide that the community spread is significant and [we need] to run the event with zero fans, we’ll run the event as such.”

“But if they say that there’s low risk and we can do it like we’re doing it, we’ll do the same…

“Every day we have a rethink on everything.

“We’ll follow the advice of the government on what they want us to do.

“We as an organisation won’t be the decision-makers on that,” he said.