Hotel quarantine workers were treated to a party to thank them for their success in isolating Australian Open stars just days before one of them tested positive for Covid, plunging the tournament into chaos.
Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria organised the outdoor event for about 60 staff at the View Hotel on St Kilda Road, Melbourne, which was one of the venues used to house players.
The gathering on Sunday was meant to mark the end of the Australian Open quarantine program – but hundreds of tournament participants have been forced back into isolation awaiting test results.
The 26-year-old male residential support officer, who did not attend the function, tested positive on Wednesday, with matches scheduled for Thursday abruptly cancelled and restrictions reimposed on Victoria, including household gatherings of 15 and mandatory masks indoors.
Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria put on an outdoor gathering to thank workers associated with isolating Australian Open stars at the View Hotel on St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Pictured, people associated with the tournament line-up to be tested for Covid outside the facility on Thursday
CQV said the gathering at the View Hotel on St Kilda Road, Melbourne, (pictured) was a small outdoor function’to show their appreciation for quarantine staff
A spokeswoman from CQV described the event as a ‘small outdoor function’ that was a way to thank staff ‘for their considerable efforts in facilitating the complex quarantine program for the Australian Open’, the Herald Sun reported.
‘Our staff put themselves on the frontline every day to help keep Victorians safe and we are extremely appreciative of the work they do,’ the spokeswoman said.
Victorian opposition leader Michael O’Brien slammed the party, saying ‘holding a party for these particular workers – at our expense – to celebrate what a great job they’ve done, it is beyond belief’.
The View Hotel became a testing site on Thursday as people associated with the Australian Open lined-up to be swabbed.
The infected man had last worked at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne’s CBD on January 29 and tested negative that day before developing symptoms days later.
None of the staff who attended the gathering were considered close contacts of the infected man according to reports and all had tested negative for Covid.
Donna Vekic of Croatia was one of the Australian open players who had to be tested for Covid after an Australian Open residential support officer tested positive
Australian Open organisers remain confident of starting the tournament on Monday after warm-up matches were cancelled following a confirmed case of Covid-19
The worker is expected to have contracted the ultra-infectious UK mutant strain, and has a ‘high viral load’ – meaning any close contact may have received a high enough dose to become infected.
Just how the man became infected remains unclear but CCTV footage was being examined.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday evening 15 of the man’s 17 household and primary close contacts have returned negative results. The final two results are expected on Friday.
About half of the nearly 600 people associated with the Australian Open that went into isolation have already returned negative results.
Play on the Melbourne Summer Series will resume on Friday after it was suspended on Thursday following the man’s diagnosis.
Tournament directors say they are confident of starting the event on Monday and organisers are considering holding the tournament without fans and could force players into repeated quarantines.
It had been announced earlier that up to 30,000 fans a day could be admitted to the Open, half the usual attendance.
But plans are now being drawn up to ban the spectators if Victorian authorities further tighter restrictions.
Organisers have also conceded players may have to quarantine during the tournament, with director Craig Tilley saying: ‘If we have to go through this again, we’ll go through this again.’
No matches in the six warm-up events held at Melbourne Park were played on Thursday after an employee at one of the hotels used for the two weeks of quarantine tested positive on Wednesday
The infected 26-year-old man from Noble Park last worked at the Grand Hyatt hotel (pictured) in Melbourne’s CBD on January 29
He told a press conference on Thursday: ‘This does give us three days for the lead-in events to complete.
‘Obviously tomorrow we’ve got some challenging weather, so we’ve got to work around that as well, and the intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday.
‘We’re absolutely confident the Australian Open’s going to go ahead. We know we’ve got a period now we’ve got to work through with those players and their staff that needed tests. The probability is very low that there’s going to be any issue, we fully expect them all to test negative.’
‘If we have to go through this again, we’ll go through this again. We’ve got another three and a half weeks of tennis and fully expect to keep to the original schedule.’
The draw, which had been scheduled for 7am GMT on Thursday, has been pushed back to the early hours of Friday.
Friday’s schedule for the warm-up events was announced just before 9pm Melbourne time, with a number of players, including Nick Kyrgios and Britain’s Dan Evans, facing the prospect of playing two matches in a day.