The massive logistical exercise behind Australian Open players’ COVID hotel quarantine

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It has been five days since the last chartered plane load of players and officials flew into the country and headed into quarantine before the start of the Australian Open on February 8.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said those five days have felt like a year.

“There’s been a lot going on,” he said, as he opened a briefing session with the Australian media.

Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 19 with our coronavirus blog.

The players in quarantine are counting down; they are into single digits with nine days of the mandatory 14 remaining.

The controversy and debate surrounding the event has been dealt with elsewhere but burying into the numbers of what has already happened without a single ball being served provides a unique perspective on what’s required to run an event in the COVID-19 era.

These past five days alone have been a “massive, massive logistical exercise” according to Tiley.

Dan Andrews says Australian Open players can make demands while in quarantine, ‘but the answer is no’.

Players from 100 countries were flown in on 17 charter flights, departing from seven different cities and arriving in the space of 48 hours to be checked into three different hotels.

Three of those flights had passengers who tested positive to COVID-19 and were taken to medi-hotels.


There were three positive cases on a plane from Los Angeles, three positives on a flight from Abu Dhabi and one on a flight from Doha.

Others on board those flights were considered close contacts and put into hard lockdown, including 72 players who have shared their training sessions, opinions, complaints and suggestions with the world via various social media platforms.

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There have been around 2,500 COVID tests conducted on the arrivals so far.

In the first round of testing those who didn’t initially test positive were cleared of having the virus, although there have been some cases showing viral shedding where the individual is not contagious but shows results of having had COVID sometime in the preceding months.

A tennis player wearing a mask is escorted by hotel quarantine staff.
Marcelo Melo is one of the players allowed out to train during their hotel quarantine.(AAP)

“Our objective all along was to ensure that we were going to have an environment that was safe for the community,” Tiley said.

“Melburnians, Victorians, Australians have paid a massive price for the situation we are in today and that’s to have no community spread.

Tennis player Aryna Sabalenka practices against hotel window during quarantine

“And that price as you all know was a hard lockdown for many of us for a long time.

“So we paid the price and now we are in a position where we have the players and all of our international guests, 1,270 of them, doing the same thing — 14 days in quarantine, where you get tested every day.”

There are still another 5,000 to 6,000 tests to be conducted over the remaining days of quarantine.

There are two types of quarantine for players

On top of that was the logistics of co-ordinating the movements of those players who were not in hard lockdown but in a modified quarantine plan where they could leave their rooms for five hours a day to train.

“That’s for two hours of practice, 90 minutes of gym and then half an hour for nutrition,” Tiley said.

Those hours are carefully monitored and coordinated including travel arrangements with door-to-door military precision.

“Each room gets a knock on the door within five minutes of each other,” Tiley explained.

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