Novak Djokovic’s disastrous Adria Tour project went from bad to worse today when the world number one himself announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.
The 33 year-old Serbian, who has stated that he is an anti-vaxxer, said he did not have symptoms of the virus but that he had become sixth direct participant in his exhibition series to catch the virus.
It comes after two events, in Belgrade and Zadar, where there was a near total lack of social distancing measures, with players repeatedly getting up close in everything from fun football kickabouts to escapades in nightclubs.
Novak Djokovic has tested positive for coronavirus after hosting two tennis events where there was a near total lack of social distancing measures
Djokovic and fellow tennis stars partied in a Belgrade nightclub on Sunday night, with some of the players taking their shirts off during the riotous evening
Djokovic (left centre) was joined by the likes of Alex Zverev and Dominic Thiem throughout the evening following the completion of the Adria Tour
What is the science behind two-metre social distancing rule?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a one metre distance between two people from separate households.
The reason for this, as stated on its website, is that: ‘When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.’
But other countries have taken advice from their own health experts and social distancing varies from two metres (in the UK) down to one metre (in France)
The two metre rule can be traced back to research in the 1930s that showed droplets of liquid from coughs or sneezes would land within a one-two metre range.
Social distancing varies between different countries:
TWO METRES: UK, Switzerland, US, Spain, Italy
1.5 METRES: Germany, Poland, Netherlands
ONE METRE: Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland
SO, WHAT HAVE THE STUDIES SHOWN?
Number 10’s chief scientific adviser – Sir Patrick Vallance – has said that the one metre rule is up to 30 times more risky than the two metre rule.
He told MPs earlier this month the risk of spending a minute next to a Covid-19 patient for two minutes was ‘about the same’ as being within a metre of a Covid-19 case for six seconds.
The latest evidence, published in The Lancet, found there was roughly a 2.6 per cent chance of catching the virus when one metre from a Covid patient. But doubling the gap cut the risk to only 1.3 per cent.
One of the top scientific advisers to the British Government said the two metre social distancing rule is based on ‘very fragile’ evidence.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a member of Nervtag, referred to it as a ‘rule of thumb’ rather than a scientifically proven measure.
Other experts have said the distance may be a non-scientific estimate that just caught on in countries around the world.
IS TWO METRES ENOUGH?
The UK’s coronavirus social distancing limit is four times too short and the gap should be 26 feet, said experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March.
They found viral droplets expelled in coughs and sneezes can travel in a moist, warm atmosphere at speeds of between 33 and 100ft per second.
This creates a cloud in the atmosphere that can span approximately 23ft to 27ft (seven metres to eight metres) to neighbouring people, the team said.
Another study by scientists in Cyprus, published a fortnight ago, added to the evidence when it found the two-metre rule may not be far enough.
Researchers found even in winds of two miles per hour (mph) – the speed needed for smoke to drift – saliva can travel 18 feet in just five seconds.
And scientists from the universities of California Santa Barbara and Stanford last week said the two metre rule may have to be trebled when winter strikes.
They found droplets that carry SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 – can travel up to 20feet (six metres) in cold and humid areas.
Other players who have tested positive are Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki. There have also been positive tests for Djokovic’s fitness trainer Marco Panichi and Dimitrov’s coach Christian Groh.
The highest profile player of them all tested positive after he returned to Belgrade, having declined to be tested with everyone else at the second event in Croatia.
Djokovic’s wife Jelena has also tested positive, although their children have not.
Jelena also holds what many would consider unconventional views. She has had a ‘false information’ label slapped on one of her Instagram posts after she shared a video promoting the belief that coronavirus could be spread via 5G technology.
‘The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested,’ Djokovic said, before going on to state his good intentions in arranging the exhibition series.
‘Everything we did in in the past month we did with a pure heart. Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.
‘It was all born with a philanthropic idea, to direct all raised funds towards people in need and it warmed my heart to see how everybody strongly responded to this.
‘We organised the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the tour had been met.
‘Unfortunately this virus is still present and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with.’
There was a hint of contrition at the end of his statement, although he did not address the conduct of the matches – which resembled an ordinary ATP event – nor the extra curricular activities.
Throughout there appears to have been an intention to cock a snoop at the virus, with players clambering all over each other in games of football and basketball, and also with close contact at promotional events.
‘I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection,’ said Djokovic. ‘I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.’
With the main attraction now resolving to go into isolation the rest of the Adria Tour is likely to be cancelled.
Djokovic has made two major charitable donations to the fight against Coronavirus, to Serbian health authorities and those in the stricken Lombardy region of Italy.
However the rest of his conduct has been deeply controversial to the point of reckless many in the game feel his conduct ought to see him stand down from the position of President of the ATP Player Council.
Almost one year on from his greatest Wimbledon triumph his standing has plummeted, and it will be fascinating to see how it affects his career going forward, as he has always been sensitive about being less popular than Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic hosted a Facebook Live event back in April and revealed he is against having vaccinations.
‘Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,’ Djokovic said.
‘But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
‘I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.
‘Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet.’
Djokovic has also come in for criticism from players across tennis, with Nick Kyrgios labelling the decision to push on with the tournament as ‘boneheaded’ on Monday.
He had even more to say on Tuesday once he learned of Djokovic’s diagnosis.
Alongside a video of some of the players partying in a nightclub, Kyrgios wrote: ‘Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.’
Despite no social distancing the party broke no Serbian laws in relation to the coronavirus
Djokovic pictured alongside his wife Jelena, who has also tested positive for coronavirus – she has previously had a ‘false information’ badge attached to one of her Instagram posts after sharing a clip that suggested the spread of coronavirus is linked to 5G technology
Djokovic was also pictured grappling with Grigor Dimitrov during a game of basketball while they were competing in his event – both players have now tested positive for Covid-19
Djokovic posted the above picture of the tennis stars having a kickabout earlier in the event – another example of how there was minimal attention paid to social distancing
Dimitrov (left), Djokovic and Co showed no consideration for social distancing when they were celebrating scoring goals between their tennis matches on the Adria Tour
Borna Coric (left) and Dimitrov have both tested positive after playing in the competition that was overseen by World No 1 Djokovic
Big crowds have attended the Adria Tour amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
Nick Kyrgios labelled the decision to go ahead with the Adria Tour as ‘boneheaded’ on Monday and had even more to say once he learned Djokovic had contracted Covid-19
Tweeting a video of players from the event partying in a nightclub, Kyrgios said the decision to play amid the pandemic made his previous indiscretions pale by comparison
Andy Murray admitted that Djokovic’s staging of the event ‘is not a good look’ for tennis
British No 1 Dan Evans was also stinging with his words.
‘I just think it is a poor example to set,’ Evans said. ‘Even if the guidelines in that country are not two metres… it is not a joke is it?
‘Even if the guidelines were taken away in this country, I would still be trying to keep myself out of the way as much as I could from other people. I just think there has been a total disregard to that.’
Andy Murray was more measured in what he said of Djokovic, his one-time rival.
‘I have always had a good relationship with Novak. In hindsight, what’s happened there it is not a good look,’ he said.
‘When you are going through a time like this, it’s important any of the top athletes around the world are showing that we are taking this extremely seriously and knowing that we are using social distancing measures.
‘Like when I’m getting treatment from my physio, wearing masks and things just to reduce the risk as much as possible.
‘Ultimately, the tour won’t get back again if we are having problems every single week and the players are doing what they want.’