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Two Australian Open tennis players test positive but may not have active coronavirus infections, Police Minister says



Ten positive COVID-19 tests have now been recorded among people who have flown to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament, including two players whose results were confirmed today.

Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, said one of those new cases was a player who is in hard lockdown, and authorities believe their infection is not active, but shedding.

Ms Neville said another player and one of their support team have also tested positive and are unable to train until authorities can determine the status of their infections.

“In the meantime, the player, the support person and their bubble — so the other support person and player they’re with — will not be training until we have a final confirmation that they are shedding or that they are positive,” she said.

If they are positive, the player and their support person will go into the health hotel and their training partner and their support person will enter a hard quarantine as close contacts of a confirmed case, Ms Neville said.

The three new cases whose test results were received by the Victorian Government today will be reported in the official coronavirus numbers tomorrow, Ms Neville said.

Earlier, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the hotel quarantine system was working well.

“We’re in our sixth day and so far our numbers have been extremely low and if they are active cases they go straight to the medi-hotel,” he said.

Paramedics this morning responded to a medical emergency at the View Hotel, where many tennis players have been quarantined.

Ambulance Victoria said one person was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but did not reveal whether the person was connected to the tennis.

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Player complaints still occupying Tennis Australia’s time

Tennis Australia has devoted considerable time to dealing with a vocal minority of players who have continued to complain about conditions in hotel quarantine.

Spanish player Roberto Bautista Agut issued an apology after he likened conditions in quarantine to being in jail, in a video he said was released without his consent.

In the video, Bautista Agut was critical of the Victorian Government, saying the quarantine arrangements were “a complete disaster”.

He later issued a statement saying it was a private conversation taken out of context and released to the media without his knowledge.

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Russian player Yulia Putintseva drew criticism yesterday for an Instagram post in which she was seen holding a protest sign in her hotel room.

Putintseva later continued to complain about cleanliness standards, posting videos of mice in her hotel room.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said Ms Putintseva was moved to a different room in the hotel, and she understood the player had been feeding the mouse.

“We don’t send cleaners into those rooms … so every tennis player needs to clean their own room and change their own bed if they want to do that,” she said.

“I’d just encourage them to minimise interaction with the mice, we will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem.”

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Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had to remind players that their complaints may not be well received in Melbourne.

“We’re doing the best we can to ask the players to be respectful of the Victorian community, who’ve been through a really tough time over four months of a lockdown, and paid significant prices in loss of life and also in jobs,” he said.

“It’s just one of those environments that we have to every single day talk to the players and ask them to respect that position.

“I believe the majority of them are, it’s just a select few that are not there yet.”

British player Johanna Konta spoke up during a conference call with hundreds of players earlier this week, urging them to be mindful of local sentiment and keep their complaints private.

She told Channel Nine that emotions were running high during the first few days of quarantine, and players were simply anxious about how they would perform after two weeks in a hotel room.

“A big part of that frustration for these players will be how well will they be able to perform and I think that just comes along with being a professional athlete and sometimes rationale doesn’t come into it,” she said.

“The reason we are here is to put on a show for the people of Australia, the people of Melbourne, and also the world stage.”

Quarantine bill to be paid in full by Tennis Australia

Ms Neville estimated the cost of quarantining players ahead of the Australian Open would run into the tens of millions of dollars, and said the bill would not be paid by the Government.

Earlier today, Mr Tiley suggested to Melbourne radio station 3AW that the Victorian Government would help out with quarantine costs, but could not say how much they would contribute.

“Well that’s still to be determined — perhaps next week or the week after we’ll know that, whatever the quarantine costs end up being,” he said.

Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had exhausted its $80 million dollar cash reserve and had taken out a loan to fund the costs associated with player flights and hotel quarantine, but Ms Neville said his claims about taxpayers funding part of the bill were not correct.

“Hotel quarantine for the Australian Open is fully funded by Tennis Australia. I’ve triple-confirmed that again today [after seeing that information], it is fully funded by the Australian Open,” she said.

She said while the Government supported the Australian Open “as an event”, as it does with all big events, the additional cost of the quarantine arrangements was being funded by Tennis Australia.

“The taxpayer is not contributing to the [Australian Open] hotel quarantine program,” she said.

Tennis Australia is yet to reveal whether allowances will be made in its schedule for the 72 players in hard quarantine, but Mr Tiley hinted that could be a possibility.

“I think how we can adjust is what happens in the lead-in events, how many lead-in events we have and when we start and what the schedule is for those players who need more time,” he said.



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Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson facing coronavirus restrictions and Tokyo Olympics uncertainty as he steps into job


New Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is preparing to face a series of unique challenges as he takes charge of Australia’s women’s national team in the midst of a global pandemic and with the future of the Tokyo Olympics still uncertain.

Gustavsson formally began his role earlier this month and has spoken with his players and staff online, but is yet to find out when his squad will be able to gather for the first time.

At the moment, the Swede is still preparing as if the Olympics Games will go ahead in July and August this year. If they do, it will be the Matildas’ first major tournament under their new coach.

Time is of the essence then for Gustavsson, who says he plans to make the most of every single minute he gets with his players.

“Obviously as a new coach and a coach in general, I would love to meet the team and meet the players. As a national team coach you always think you don’t have enough time, you want to have more days and more games,” Gustavsson said.

“It’s always challenging even in normal circumstances. Then with a pandemic going on, it’s difficult to get together and you get less time.

“I’ve tried to look at it this way, and this is how I’m wired as a person — I’m always trying to look at the possibilities.

“So instead of looking at it like we lose time, we need to make use of time. Meaning, we need to think differently now, maybe think outside of the box a little bit. So if we can’t get together physically, is there anything else we can do to gel and connect?

“This is a team that the majority of players have played together for a long time, so there’s already a camaraderie and togetherness and understanding with each other.”

A footballer with her back to camera celebrates a goal with teammates in Olympic football qualifier.
The Matildas have not played a game since March 2020.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

Gustavsson has signed a four-year contract, which will take him beyond the 2023 Women’s World Cup, to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

This then is the start of the Matildas’ journey to that tournament and Gustavsson says he is no doubt that he wants to start that journey in style.

“And it’s easy to just look at the rankings and see who we want to play. We want as tough of a schedule as possible, even if it means it is challenging and there are difficulties for me coming in as a new coach.”

An assistant coach leans over the sideline to shout instructions to womens' football players.
Tony Gustavsson during his time on the coaching staff of the USWNT.(Reuters: Michael Chow)

Gustavsson is still in Sweden but, depending on the pandemic, he is hoping to live in Australia “from mid-next year”.

He says he has been following the new W-League season from afar — though not to the extent he would like.

“It might sound like I haven’t watched anything — I’ve watched a lot — but as a coach you want to watch everything. I’m always going to feel like I haven’t watched enough,” he said.

“We have to show respect for what the league has done for the Matildas. In that sense, the W-League is very, very, very important for us.

“It’s a fantastic platform for young players to get exposed to games.”

A projected image in the sydney opera house of blue and green confetti falling behind Sam Kerr mid-backflip
The 2023 Women’s World Cup will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.(Twitter: The Matildas)

For Gustavsson, who has previously been an assistant coach for the all-conquering US Women’s National Team, distance could prove to be a blessing because he can assess his squad without any preconceived ideas or judgements.

But already, Gustavsson says, he can see similarities between his Matildas players and the two-time World-Cup-winning Americans.

“I’ve had very little time now to get up to speed, so what I’ve told the players is that I want everyone to feel like it’s a blank paper, and the coach will look with fresh eyes and will give everyone a chance to showcase themselves.

“If I say, ‘We are short here,’ or, ‘We need to look here,’ I might be blinded to what I am watching. So I want to really open up and see from my end what I think about the roster.

“When I look at the Matildas and when I spoke to the players, I sensed some similarities between the teams [Matildas and USWNT] in terms of that passion and drive and attitude and fearlessness to step on the field.

“With that attitude that we can beat anyone.

“What stands out for me is the passion they have for their country and how proud they are to play for the Matildas.”



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Australian Open coronavirus quarantine hotel’s discarded PPE found outside neighbours’ homes


Victorian residents living next door to an Australian Open quarantine hotel are worried they have been exposed to potential health risks, saying overflowing biohazard bins caused used PPE to be blown into their apartment foyer.

Melbourne resident Sarah, who lives next door to the View hotel on St Kilda road, said she was also concerned by the amount of people who were coming in and out of the building without masks, including what she said was dozens of food delivery drivers each day.

The View hotel is one of three sites where international tennis players and their entourages are quarantining before the Australian Open next month.

At least seven people linked to the tournament have been confirmed to have COVID-19, and more than 70 players are in strict quarantine as close contacts.

Sarah, who did not want to use her surname for privacy reasons, said on the weekend there were around 10 bright yellow biohazard bins that had overflowed and the wind had blown used face masks and gloves across the street.

“In our apartment block, a lot of people I’ve spoken to aren’t going out, because they’re not sure how safe it is,” Sarah said.

“Our building has a lot of elderly people as well as children, basic stuff like this should not be happening.”

Road closure signs block access to the front of The View Hotel, photographed on a sunny Melbourne day.
The View is one of three hotels housing the Australian Open players and their entourages.(ABC News: Chris Le Page)

Father-of-two Brijesh, who also lives nearby, said he believed it was a “double standard” international tennis players were allowed in Australia and said his family was being put at risk because of it.

“It’s been a big issue — we’ve seen half a dozen face masks at a time on our front doorstep, since the hotel quarantine began next door,” he said.

“I’ve been quite worried about it actually, because my five-year-old daughter is at the stage where she likes to pick things up, so it’s pretty scary.”

Face masks and other bits of rubbish on a suburban street at night.
Residents say the personal protective equipment was blown onto the street during a windy night.(Supplied)

Improper disposal of used PPE by security guards and hotel quarantine staff during the state’s second wave was highlighted as a problem during the hotel quarantine inquiry hearings.

The COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) agency said it would review CCTV of the street to find the source of the discarded PPE and would take any appropriate action necessary.

“CQV’s biohazard bins are stored and collected from the secure basement carpark of the View Melbourne, with no public access,” a CQV spokesperson said

“This measure ensures the bins are safely collected within a secure environment to reduce any risk to public health.”

Resident says ‘lazy behaviours’ are on display

Sarah said she constantly saw many people, including workers, coming and going from the building without masks.

“It’s quite upsetting given what the city went through with hotel quarantine last year, that we seem to be witnessing some really lazy behaviours,” she said.

“Constantly during the day and night we see delivery drivers going in and out of the building — I would say about 10 to 15 every lunch and dinnertime.”

The CQV spokesperson said delivery drivers had no access to the hotel.

“They are met out the front by CQV staff who wear appropriate PPE and are trained in our strict IPC protocols. CQV staff then deliver the food outside the resident’s room door,” they said in a statement.

Sarah said only yesterday she witnessed PPE blowing around the streets and she had contacted both the hotel and Tennis Australia, but had not received a reply.

Frank Hargreaves, who lives next to the hotel, said he had witnessed a particularly bad event on a windy night a few days ago and saw a lot of masks had been blown near the door of his apartment building.

“It’s pretty dangerous, but it had been cleaned up the next day,” Mr Hargreaves said.

“The biggest concern I have is the tennis players walking along a busy St Kilda road to get to the courts for training.”



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Coronavirus Victoria: Extra car trips, more congestion, slower speeds


But Infrastructure Victoria said the answer was not to push commuters back onto trains and trams, which did not properly cater for social distancing.

On Monday, when 50 per cent of private sector workers and 25 per cent of public servants were allowed to return to the office, public transport levels returned to 36 per cent of normal.

The road traffic, meanwhile, was 92 per cent of what it was prior to the pandemic.

Infrastructure Victoria deputy chief Jonathan Spear said the point was not to discourage the use of public transport, but to spread journeys on different days of the week and different times of day.

“It is to everybody’s benefit for us to be continuing to use public transport,” he said. “Because if we don’t get back on public transport, we’re going to have greater [road] congestion, greater delays and not as many people are going to be coming into the city to work and play and do the things that we love about Melbourne. So we do want to engender confidence.”

The greatest challenges were in inner Melbourne – particularly in the city council, Yarra and Port Phillip areas – where residents who were once reliant on public transport have turned to cars.

Short car trips below five kilometres were expected to drive up car dependency the most, particularly in the inner suburbs, with Infrastructure Victoria believing that 123,400 walks and 14,204 cycling trips could easily be taken off roads and public transport.

The analysis is based on the assumption that between 10 and 20 per cent of people will continue working from home on any given day, that the international student population will decrease and that public transport will be 37 to 55 per cent less popular than it was.

The biggest impact was remote working, wiping out 220,000 work trips.

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The report suggests permanently cutting fares for off-peak travel on public transport and offering discounts on the underutilised bus network; removing the free tram zone in the CBD to reduce crowding and encourage walking; widening footpaths and activating the streets with outdoor dining to encourage walking; improving cycling infrastructure; and potentially even offering financial incentives for cycling.

If 25 per cent of people keep working from home and flexible working hours allow for off-peak travel, then congestion could plateau in the inner suburbs to pre-COVID levels.

Mr Spear said reforms were needed immediately to avoid locking in inefficient and high-risk behaviours.

“We think that there are things that can be done really pretty quickly. And in fact there’s an imperative to do it quickly, so that we don’t set in train patterns of behaviour that are a worse new normal rather than a better new normal,” he said.

“Even if people don’t have the opportunity to change their time or mode of travel, if other people are, then that also gives a real benefit to those who don’t have a choice.”

The Department of Transport has already discounted off-peak public transport fares by 30 per cent for three months from January 31. At the same time, Metro Trains will also roll out an extra 280 services a week. The department is trialling technology to inform passengers in real time about congestion on their train or bus or at stations.

Masks remain mandatory on public transport, extra cleaning is taking place and hand sanitiser has been provided across the network. A spokesperson for the department said Melburnians should be confident using public transport.

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Australian Open players hit balls against walls, run laps in room to overcome coronavirus quarantine setbacks



Confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks and unable to train, some tennis players have come up with novel ways to prepare for the Australian Open.

Positive COVID-19 cases on three charter flights to Melbourne, from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Doha, saw dozens of players named as close contacts, meaning they are unable to leave their rooms, even to train.

While the players say the two-week quarantine seriously curtails their ability to prepare for the grand slam, tournament organisers say they are providing equipment to the players so they can train.

But the players themselves are trying to make the most of a bad situation.

Mattress, windows and walls prove makeshift training surfaces

Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas and Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic all shared footage of themselves on social media training inside their rooms, hitting balls against varying surfaces.

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Russia’s Anastasia Potapova and Belarus’s world number 10 Aryna Sabalenka were determined not to let their skills drop.

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British player Heather Watson shared an video of herself running in her room with the caption, ‘5k’.

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Finding a way to kill time

But for some players, it’s not all about the game.

Former Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka, who is in Adelaide and is able to leave her room to train, said she would be spending her downtime playing with some shots of a different kind.

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Russians Daria Kasatkina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova put together a montage.

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American player Tennys Sandgren, who was on the charter flight from Los Angeles and is unable to leave his room, is also filling his time by playing video games.

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Complaints about close contact rules

There has been some confusion among players about the quarantine situation some players have found themselves in.

Some have claimed they were not told the entire planeload of passengers would need to self-isolate for two weeks if someone on board tested positive for COVID-19.

But Victorian authorities and the Australian Open said players were fully aware of the quarantine requirements before they arrived in Australia

“What I don’t understand is that, why no-one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated … I would think twice before coming here,” Putintseva said on Twitter.

Romanian player Sorona Cirstea said after isolating for two weeks, she would need “at least three weeks after in order to be in decent form again and compete at a high level”.

She also said she was not aware everyone on a flight would be considered a close contact if a passenger tested positive.

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Bencic said after arriving in Melbourne, players received an information book with rules they did not know about before they decided to compete in the Australian Open.

“We are not complaining to be in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,” she said on Twitter.

But New Zealand player Artem Sitak, who was on the flight from Los Angeles, said everyone knew what they were getting themselves into.

“We had a call with Tennis Australia about a month ago and not a lot of players were on that call, which was surprising to me,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

“Basically, the organisers told us the risks they were going to be undertaking and they did mention if someone tested positive on a flight, it’s going to be up to the health authorities to decide whether to quarantine all the flight or segments of the plane.

“In our case, where the flight attendant tested positive, of course the whole plane has to be quarantined.”

Belgian player Kirsten Flipkens called for the tournament to be pushed back a week so all players had the opportunity to train properly for the tournament.

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The Australian Open is due to start on February 8.



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Push for wider roll-out of 15-minute coronavirus tests


But John Kelly, chief executive of Atomo Diagnostics, which produces the tests, says health departments have been reluctant to publicly recommended them despite their widespread use overseas.

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“Our concerns are that the public policy at the moment is very dogmatic and not flexible and not really evolving with the pandemic as it changes,” he said.

Mr Kelly said there was “only one voice at the table and that’s the pathologists”.

“They’re default position is lab-based pathology because that’s their business model and that’s their experience so I think there’s not a breadth of conversation … I just think it’s a lack of willingness to really openly discuss it.

“It’s almost a monopoly in Australia in terms of the provision of testing.”

He said rapid testing could be used to complement PCR testing in situations where there is a need for quick, mass testing of populations, for example in situations where COVID fragments are found in sewage water.

Mr Kelly said Atomo tests, which are approved by the TGA, are about 90 per cent accurate, while accuracy for PCR tests is in the high-90s.

“From our perspective we’re not saying you have to use Atomo tests, what we are saying is there really needs to be mature conversation around what’s the best combination of testing to manage this rapidly moving pandemic.”

Antigen tests detect proteins on the surface of a virus and are usually administered by a medical professional who swabs the back of a person’s nose or throat.

The sample is then mixed in a solution that frees proteins from the virus, with the results showing up on a test slide coated with antibodies. Some companies are creating antigen tests that can be used at home, similar to a pregnancy test.

The performance of rapid antigen tests is currently being evaluated by the Doherty Institute for the Victorian government, with results from the field trials to be delivered in the next month, a Health Department spokeswoman said.

Melbourne doctor Peter Lewis has been attempting to persuade the Victorian government of the benefits of antigen tests for more than a month.

“We have a major laboratory pushback to antigen testing,” he said. “Anyone associated with a laboratory is saying that PCR is the gold standard and that’s absolutely true, but if you’re a doctor like me and you’re treating patients, you want a test that allows you to rapidly separate people who are infected from those who aren’t.”

Rapid antigen tests are relatively inexpensive compared to the common PCR tests (the nasal and throat swabs), however results are less accurate.

Rapid antigen tests are relatively inexpensive compared to the common PCR tests (the nasal and throat swabs), however results are less accurate.Credit:Getty

He said that rapid antigen tests could be used to test hotel quarantine workers.

“We have to improve our testing situation and this will help identify the quarantine worker who is heading home and could potentially spread the virus to her family and beyond,” he said.

“Everybody, particularly quarantine staff and travellers can be tested on a daily basis with an antigen test. And of course, if they test positive you follow up with a PCR.”

The NSW government recently announced that rapid antigen testing will be conducted every day for personnel working in quarantine from January 21, after sustained pressure from epidemiologists and infectious diseases experts.

Dr Lewis said he believed the reluctance to embrace antigen testing was the result of “massive lobbying” by the big pathology companies.

“The lobbyists say that PCR testing is the gold standard while antigen testing is new and unproven technology. We need to use both. This is life or death for our old people. It’s life or death for our economy and we need to use everything at our disposal.”

Dr Michael Dray, president of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, said that governments make advice based on consultation with many groups of experts in addition to pathologists.

He said that there is an increased chance of false positive and false negative results with antigen testing, and given the low case numbers of COVID-19 in Australia, the RCPA advises against the widespread use of rapid antigen tests.

“More evidence is needed on real-world performance and operational aspects of rapid antigen tests and the RCPA supports the work the government is taking in this area,” he said.

Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett said the tests could have a place in Australia’s testing regime in conjunction with PCR testing, in settings such as workplaces or hotel quarantine.

“I only think antigen testing should be used for rapid testing and repeat testing – most settings you can wait half a day or a day for a result,” she said.

“If someone has been in quarantine or isolation because they had the virus, you don’t want to send them home on the strength of an antigen test when you can wait half a day.”

She said the Victorian government was taking a cautious approach to new testing methods.

“I don’t think the government is averse to considering things outside routine pathology but here in Victoria we do have a very cautious approach and so stepping away from a reliable test to one that’s less sensitive has to have its own argument around it.”

Australian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Simon Westaway said that the rapid antigen test should “come into its own” in Australia in 2021 and needed to be part of authorities’ response, particularly around the management of borders.

A Victorian Health Department spokesman said that they were “always open to new methods of testing, once the correct research and procedures have taken place to ensure their accuracy and efficiency”.

“The Victorian government continues to invest in new research with the Doherty Institute to develop more local data and evidence for use in the Victorian context, including trials to help determine if antigen and rapid molecular tests may play a role in screening and rapidly triaging high-risk cohorts to complement existing PCR testing capacity.”

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said several weeks ago that some of the antigen tests registered with the TGA are “very good”, but the gold-standard was PCR testing.

With Henrietta Cook

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IOC encouraged to involve UN in decision on Tokyo Olympics future amid coronavirus pandemic


A former International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president has suggested the organisation seek counsel from the United Nations on whether the delayed Tokyo Olympics go ahead, with the Games scheduled to start in July.

Tokyo organisers must weigh the geopolitical, budgetary and social pressures of staging the Games against the backdrop of a national emergency in which thousands of new COVID-19 infections are recorded daily.

The IOC could face a drastic loss of more than $1 billion — mainly from television rights — if the Games are not held.

Australian honorary IOC member Kevan Gosper, who served as a vice-president from 1990 to 1994 and 1999 to 2003, said it was crucial a decision be made soon on whether the Games go ahead.

Gosper said UN expertise was possibly required, given the precariousness of the landscape.

“If you are looking for a third party that recognises this has gone beyond an issue just related to sport, or just related to national interests … then there could be a case to go to the United Nations and seek their involvement in arbitrating whether the Games go ahead or not,” he told The Ticket.

“It’s in the interests of the general health of the athletes, administrators, viewers, and the rest of the world because we are talking about something that is potentially going to involve representatives of 205 countries.

“We did that with the set-up of the refugees representation at the Games, we did it — and I was personally involved — with getting East Timor up even though they weren’t a national entity to take part in the Sydney Games, and we are not strangers in our relationships with the United Nations.

“There are only two players in this — Tokyo and the IOC — and frankly with all of the uncertainties and the extra costs it’ll only take one of them to blink and then the whole thing will come unstuck.”

The Tokyo Olympics are not due to begin until July 23 but organisers do not have the option of waiting until then to make a decision.

The likely cut-off date will be in mid-March ahead of the scheduled start of the Olympic Torch Relay on the 25th of that month.

Kevan Gosper speaking in Beijing in 2008.
Kevan Gosper said the IOC had previously sought assistance from the UN.(AP: Greg Baker)

The IOC is known to be wary of outside interference but Mr Gosper said any involvement of the UN should not be seen that way.

“Always there will be a pushback because the IOC and John Coates (an IOC vice-president and Tokyo Coordination Commission chair) exemplifies this, he doesn’t like any outside interference but this is not interference,” he said.

“This I would believe is a resort to good advice, good counsel and maybe good decision-making, which takes the stress out of the only two parties who are involved at the moment.”



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Fourth Australian Open arrival tests positive for coronavirus, people in hotel quarantine warned over breaches



A fourth person who flew into Melbourne for the Australian Open has tested positive for COVID-19, as dozens of tennis players prepare to spend two weeks unable to practice outdoors after being deemed close contacts.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) commissioner Emma Cassar said the latest positive case was a member of a broadcast team who travelled to Victoria on a chartered flight from Los Angeles.

Two other passengers on that flight — a crew member and a tournament participant who is not a player — were confirmed as having the virus yesterday.

One passenger on another flight, EY8004 from the United Arab Emirates, also tested positive after arriving in Melbourne, CQV confirmed late last night.

All of the passengers on those planes, which included 47 tennis players, have been classed as close contacts and will be confined to their rooms for 14 days.

Under the Australian Open quarantine rules, COVID-negative players are allowed to leave their rooms for five hours training per day during their two-week hotel quarantine period.

Ms Cassar said Sunday’s training had been delayed while authorities waited for the test results of the more than 1,000 players and staff who had arrived between Thursday night and Saturday morning.

The EY8004 passenger, Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, said he had tested negative and had no symptoms before departing.

He said he had followed all COVID safety protocols and had no idea how he contracted the virus.

“I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight,” he said in a statement Tennis Canada posted on Twitter.

“The rest of my team is negative, and I sincerely hope that any further disruption is kept to a minimum.”

People in quarantine ‘testing our procedures’

Ms Cassar said there had been a “small few” people within the Australian Open quarantine hotels who were “testing our procedures” and had tried to leave their rooms.

“These procedures are in place to keep people safe,” she said.

“I can give you two examples, a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.

“The other was another gentleman who shouted some Uber Eats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.

“It is really low-level but really dangerous acts which we just can’t tolerate.”

One of the people was a player, Ms Cassar said.

She said there was “zero tolerance” for the “challenging behaviours” and CQV had contacted Victoria Police to step up compliance.

She said for those “persistently breaching” the rules, they could be fined or transferred to a complex health hotel where a Victoria Police officer would be stationed at every door.

‘No-one ever told us’: Tennis players complain about close contact rules

Victoria has recorded zero local coronavirus cases for the 11th consecutive day, out of 11,023 test results received in the 24 hours to midnight on Saturday.

Seven new infections were recorded in hotel quarantine, which includes the three connected to the Australian Open.

Some tennis players have said they were not aware that an entire flight would be required to isolate if someone tested positive, and have argued the rules put them at a disadvantage.

“What I don’t understand is that, why no-one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated … I would think twice before coming here,” Kazakh player Yulia Putintseva said on Twitter.

Romanian player Sorona Cirstea said after isolating for two weeks, she would need “at least three weeks after in order to be in decent form again and compete at a high level”.

She also said she was not aware everyone on a flight would be considered a close contact if a passenger tested positive.

“I have no issues to stay 14 days in the room watching Netflix. Believe me this a dream come true, holiday even,” she said on Twitter.

“What we cant do is COMPETE after we have stayed 14 days on a couch. This is the issue, not the quarantine rule.”

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Swiss tennis player Belinda Bencic said after arriving in Melbourne, players received an information book with rules they did not know about before they decided to compete in the Australian Open.

“We are not complaining to be in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,” she said on Twitter.

Victorian Government says rules were ‘very clear’

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said officials would do whatever they could to “make it as fair as possible” for players who were in isolation.

“This is not an ideal situation — in the pandemic right now it’s not an ideal situation for anyone — we’ve got to play our part to ensure the community stays safe, and that was the objective all along,” he said on the Today Show.

“Our Chief Health Officer is ensuring that, and we made a commitment to the community of that, so it is unfortunate, but we’re going to do whatever we can to make a bad situation better.”

He said Tennis Australia made it clear that if someone tested positive, there was a risk of other Australian Open participants being required to self-isolate.

“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the Health Department, and they’re doing what they deem is necessary to keep our community safe,” he said.

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the conditions and prerequisites were “made very clear” to participants in the Australian Open.

“Our health advice has always been consistent in terms of how close contacts are determined, all of that information is known, was known, and we are absolutely sticking to the safety requirements that our health experts are telling us need to be in place,” she said.

“This is about making sure that we continue with the Australian Open but doing it in a way that keeps the broader community safe and keeps Victoria open.”

Mr Tiley said the February 8 start of the Australian Open was not being delayed, but officials may look at adjusting the schedules of some of the tournaments in the lead-up if necessary.



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Coronavirus Victoria: Riots, conspiracy theories and digital cowboys: welcome to 2021


An electoral boundary redistribution this year will reflect population growth in the newer more ALP voting suburbs and thus make the opposition’s task even harder, contributing to their poor morale and lack of motivation. The Andrews’ government’s progressive social agenda – Treaty, injecting rooms, social housing, wage justice – will be matched by an aggressive job creation push led by construction of infrastructure and a return of international students.

The opposition had its Tim Smith problems in 2020 but the long overdue collapse of the Trump cult has presented Michael O’Brien with a new challenge – called Bernie Finn. A senior member of the Liberal Party, he is still the Upper House Whip and heads their ticket for the Western Metropolitan Region. Finn is an unapologetic, fully subscribed sword-carrier of the fanatical right and refuses to budge from his God-given agenda.

Liberal Upper House MP Bernie Finn.

Liberal Upper House MP Bernie Finn. Credit:Jason South

It is not at all clear if Finn can be purged from the Liberal’s Upper House ticket. Only State Council can suspend an MP, but with COVID restrictions, there is no meeting planned. He cannot be easily removed as the Whip either. Andrews cannot believe his luck.

The crossbench – the independents – in the Upper House led by the strategically and tactically canny Fiona Patten can censure Finn using their own procedures. The government will watch with bemused interest but will wisely let others do the heavy lifting. It would not look good during a pandemic for a government to devote energy to a sideshow.

With his whacko federal colleagues, George Christensen and Craig Kelly, they are a gift to the ALP every time they surface. Anyone hitched to the toxic Trump brand is now electoral poison.

Illustration of Premier Daniel Andrews.

Illustration of Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Matt Davidson

How can any sensible politician endorse the violent acts of enraged lawless vandals, rallying under the Confederate flag or wearing ‘Camp Auschwitz’ logos and other slogans even more offensive than that on their shirts? The Confederate flag represents slavery and lynching. Bizarrely, Trump himself eventually criticised the rioters but here in Australia some of his supporters will not!

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Trump has consistently destroyed relationships with everyone he works with. The casualty list from his theatrically inspired single failed term in the White House is staggering. Now those voters who stormed the seat of constitutional power at his urging are left abandoned too. Their anger over a “stolen” election is compounded at now being betrayed by their figurehead.

It turns out it was all for nothing. They too were taken in by the greatest conman of our generation. The damage to their self-regard, to say nothing of the international reputation of the USA, will take years to repair.

Protesters inside the Capitol building.

Protesters inside the Capitol building.Credit:AP

Many of the mob who trashed the Capitol were astonished that they got into trouble for their “patriotism”. This can only be explained by a super-charged sense of entitlement. To be indignant that riotous behaviour is met with even half-baked law enforcement proves a detachment from reality typical of a cult. Four years of appeasing Trump and excusing his outrages inevitably led to this. If you start a fire, do not feign surprise when it gets out of control.

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The far-right became a party within a party in Australia too. Appeasement leaves them empowered, and shows the impotence of moderates within Liberal ranks. Do not negotiate with terrorists, even digitally savvy ones.

Until we strip anonymity from the digital world and force trolls and their profiteering publishers in social media to be as accountable online as they are in every other realm then democracy will continue to be under siege.

The confines of cyber-space anonymity enables people to perform the role of their evil twin. This week again police were pressing charges against keyboard warriors making death and other threats against local politicians including the Premier and Fiona Patten.

Reason Party leader Fiona Patten.

Reason Party leader Fiona Patten.Credit:Photo: Paul Jeffers

Facebook, Twitter and other providers of what have become essential services cannot be allowed to become a law unto themselves. Self-serving pleading for special treatment simply must be rebuffed. Our freedom has turned out to be the Achilles heel of modern Western capitalism. Our openness is being maliciously exploited by those who seek to undermine it.

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This is a global challenge. So far, Australia has been at the forefront of initiatives to rein in the digital cowboys, somewhat ironically at the urging of an anxious Murdoch media empire. They see their near monopoly in this small but influential market under threat. There may be a tiny opportunity here for the now ex-pat media mogul to just this once achieve something that is both in his and the public’s interest at the same time.

Jon Faine is a former presenter on ABC Radio Melbourne.

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Coronavirus Qld: one new COVID-19 case


Queensland authorities are still trying to piece together how a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 spread through a hotel quarantine facility, as they reveal the extraordinary measures they’re taking.

Days after it was revealed six cases of the UK variant were linked at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, the state’s top cop said environmental swabbing of the hotel had been completed.

Commissioner Katarina Carroll said swabs had been taken of “the service area where the staff work, the walls, materials in the hotel, etc.”

“This will be subjected to extensive testing by Queensland Health,” she said.

“It is a lengthy process, and we will make sure that we interrogate every aspect of what occurred in that hotel.”

Queensland recorded two new cases of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine on Friday, as well as one historic case.

It comes days after the Hotel Grand Chancellor was evacuated, after authorities discovered two returned travellers had somehow infected four others linked to the facility.

The 129 guests who were quarantining at the time, as well as 226 staff and some previously released guests were put into an additional 14 days isolation to combat any further outbreaks. The vast majority have since tested negative.

Despite a three day lockdown last weekend, the state’s chief health officer said she was increasingly confident the virus had not leaked into the community.

“I am getting increasingly comfortable that have had not had community spread,” Dr Jeannette Young said.

Two returned travellers from Ghana, a hotel cleaner and her partner, and two other returned travellers from Lebanon have all been linked to the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster.

Queensland Police have interviewed three of the six infected people, and CCTV footage is being examined, while infection analysis continues.

The cases appear to be linked to floor seven, however the Hotel Grand Chancellor did not have CCTV on that floor.

As a result, commissioner Carroll said a CCTV audit of every hotel used to quarantine had been ordered, with police set to install technology in facilities where it is lacking.

While the investigation remains ongoing, questions over the handling of returned travellers allowed to leave the facility remain.

The Courier Mail revealed on Thursday that two people in hotel quarantine, a woman and her father who had returned from Lebanon, left the facility just hours before testing positive for a mutant strain of COVID-19.

The woman accompanied her father to hospital, and after previous speculation the woman had returned to the hotel via taxi, Queensland Health confirmed she had been in full PPE and transported in an ambulance.

Commissioner Carroll said extensive independent inquiries had been undertaken, and that nothing was awry.

Dr Young said people were moved out of hotel quarantine to hospital “every single day”.

As a result of rising concerns over returned travellers, Ms Palaszczuk will take a proposal to national cabinet to move the state’s facilities to regional mining camps.

“We need to have these options on the table because, as we know, there’s a lot of this UK strain circulating at the moment and we need to make sure we have the best lines of defence here in Queensland to combat this virus,” the premier said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said 10,820 tests had been carried out in the last period, and none of the cases announced today were of concern.

Dr Young said the historical case was a man in Cairns who had returned from the Congo in September and tested negative while in hotel quarantine. A recent test result came back positive.

Dr Young said that would explain why there was “persistent shedding” detected in Cairns sewage.



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