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AO still on despite Covid fright

The cancelation of Thursday’s play at Melbourne Park after a worker at the Grand Hyatt Hotel was tested positive for Covid-19, has led to possible schedule problems with the forthcoming Australian Open which is due to start on Monday.

We’re absolutely confident the Australian Open will go ahead, We are starting on Monday Craig Tiley

With six warm-up events to finish by Sunday and some inclement weather forecast for Friday, the situation looks fraught with problems but Craig Tiley, the tournament director, has assured everyone that the show will still go on as scheduled.

“We’re absolutely confident the Australian Open will go ahead,” Tiley told reporters in Melbourne. “We are starting on Monday.”

He added that 507 people were affected in the quarantine including 160 players and their test will be completed on Thursday and should reveal all to be clear of the infection.

That being the case all warm-up events will be resumed at the venue to allow them to get some practice after 14-days in quarantine.

“This does give us three days for the lead-in events to be completed,” Tiley continued adding that the draw for the first Grand Slam event of the season had been postponed from Thursday to Friday.

Earlier, Victoria state health officials said the testing was precautionary, especially as the confirmed case was the first the state had experienced in a month.

“We think the risk to other guests in the hotel – tennis players and their accompanying staff – is relatively low,” Professor Allen Cheng told reporters.

A note of caution though from the State Premier Dan Andrews who in turn, has made it clear that the safety of the community is paramount and said there were “no guarantees” the Australian Open would go ahead.

“At this stage, the tennis shouldn’t be impacted by this,” he told reporters. “These things can change (but) this has been a textbook response to this.”

Michael O’Brien, the leader of the opposition in Victoria’s state parliament, called on the government to make a call by Saturday on whether the tournament would go ahead.

“We don’t want to see a situation as we did with the Grand Prix, where crowds were literally turning up, only to be turned away,” he told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper. “I think people are entitled to know what’s happening, and the government should be making their minds up in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

The Australian Grand Prix, the traditional season opener of the Formula One championship, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic last March just a few hours before the cars were due to start at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Tiley rejected the comparison.

“The probability is very low that there’ll be an issue. We expect them all to test negative,” he said. “The plan is to continue to play tomorrow as planned.”

Tiley, who has plenty of experience of rescheduling matches because of rain, hot weather and bushfire smoke, said the order of play for Friday, when wet weather is forecast, would be released later on Thursday.

“With the rain, we do have the luxury of having three stadium courts and eight indoor courts,” he said. “That will enable us to not get ahead but at least be able to finish by Sunday.”






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