Two more Australian Open tennis players have tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Melbourne, state health officials said on Tuesday, amid growing controversy over the event.
One more “non-playing participant” also has Covid, bringing the overall total linked to the Open to seven.
Around 1,200 people have flown in for the tournament, which begins on Feb 8.
Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton said in a statement that the latest three positive tests of two players and a non-participant were in hotel quarantine.
Arguments and complaints over quarantine rules are casting a shadow over the upcoming event, says the BBC.
Some players have expressed frustration about being confined to hotel rooms full-time while other rivals are outside practising and preparing for the tournament.
Many pandemic-weary Melbourne residents – a city which endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns last year – have their own concerns about the potential Covid risk posed by the tournament.
Positive cases on three flights have forced 72 fellow-passenger players into full quarantine, meaning they have to isolate full-time in their hotel rooms for 14 days instead of being allowed outside to train like other participants.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley insisted players had been made aware of the quarantine possibilities beforehand and said that some may have not taken it seriously and “brushed it off”.
He acknowledged it was “not an even playing field” for those stuck in their hotel rooms, given their competitors have access to five hours of court practice a day.
Outspoken MP Bill Shorten told players to “get a grip”, adding: “People have died. People have lost their jobs, and these pampered sooks are having a cry over their conditions.”
World number one Novak Djokovic lobbied authorities to relax rules for players by making the quarantine periods shorter. That earned him criticism from Australian player Nick Kyrgios, who tweeted: “Djokovic is a tool.”
Last year Djokovic organised an exhibition event at which he and others caught Covid-19.
Kyrgios also criticised Vanessa Sierra, the girlfriend of fellow Australian player Bernard Tomic, after she appeared in a news clip complaining about hotel food and having to wash her hair herself.
She has since said her comments were taken out of context and that she has received death threats after her “I don’t wash my own hair” quote was mocked online.