© Reuters. Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne, Australia
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Two more Australian Open players have tested positive for COVID-19, government officials said on Wednesday, as authorities were at cross-purposes over who would pay for the tournament’s quarantine bill.
Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville said two players and a non-playing Australian Open participant comprised three new infections reported on Wednesday.
A total of 10 people associated with the Grand Slam, including four players, have now tested positive for the virus.
The has been some confusion over the exact numbers, with authorities’ test results later being reclassified as “viral shedding” from previous infections.
The viral shedders are not contagious.
Neville said authorities were “very confident” one of the two new player infections was a case of viral shedding.
“Of the other two, it’s less clear that they’re shedding. That will be worked through, and that’s one player and one support person,” Neville told reporters.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said two players reported to have tested positive on Tuesday were also viral shedders.
More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests.
Authorities have shelled out huge funds to fly over 1,200 players, coaches and officials on 17 charter flights to Australia to put on the year’s first Grand Slam.
Tiley said quarantine costs may exceed A$40 million, part of which would be covered by the state government of Victoria.
“The state government are supporting and assisting that,” he told radio station 3AW on Wednesday.
Neville disputed that.
“I’ve triple-confirmed that again today, it is fully funded by the Australian Open,” she said.
“The taxpayer is not contributing to the (Australian Open) hotel quarantine program.”
A number of players have complained about the conditions, drawing a fierce backlash from Australians, who have criticised the players for being “entitled” even as thousands of the nation’s citizens remain stranded overseas.
Kazak women’s world number 28 Yulia Putintseva complained of a mice infestation at her quarantine and said the windows would not open in her room.
Tiley on Tuesday said “the vast majority” of players were supportive of Australia’s strict protocols.
($1 = 1.2967 Australian dollars)
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