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Australian Open rocked by third COVID-affected plane, more players to isolate

“Unfortunately we have some bad news for you. We have just been informed by the health authorities that a person on your flight … has returned a positive PCR test on arrival in Melbourne,” the communication from Tennis Australia said.

Biosecurity and airport staff in PPE gather around a Qatar Airways chartered flight carrying tennis players and staff into Melbourne on Thursday.

Biosecurity and airport staff in PPE gather around a Qatar Airways chartered flight carrying tennis players and staff into Melbourne on Thursday.Credit:Getty Images

“The Chief Health Officer (Brett Sutton) has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14 day quarantine period.

“We know this has a major impact on your preparations for the AO and the rest of the Aussie summer. We are here to do everything we can to mitigate this impact.”

It comes after two other flights into Melbourne were found to have had a total of four positive cases on board, forcing 125 people into isolation for 14 days.

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Three of the confirmed cases travelled into Australia on a flight from Los Angeles – a crew member, a tennis coach and a member of a broadcast team. There were 62 close contacts on that flight, who are all now isolating for 14 days.

After another flight from Abu Dhabi, a coach tested positive. There were 63 close contacts who are required to stay in their hotel room for two weeks.

Before news of the third affected flight was confirmed, at least 47 players had already been told they were not allowed to leave their hotel rooms at all across the next two weeks while they complete isolation as close contacts of a confirmed case.

“Over the last 48 hours, it’s been really busy,” said COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria’s Emma Cassar.

“The rules of close contacts haven’t changed, and there’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane for 16 to 24 hours in air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact.”

“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.

“We’re keeping a very close eye on the research around that UK strain, and if anything, we’ll be more cautious.”

Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer Dr Carolyn Broderick was due to meet with affected players and staff over a zoom call at 9.45pm.

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