U.K. Variant Found in Melbourne Case as Tennis Players Cleared

More than five hundred members of the Australian Open tennis cohort received negative Covid-19 test results Friday after a quarantine hotel worker contracted the virus, forcing a spate of retests in the latest turn in the complicated lead-up to the first Grand Slam event of the year.

Host Melbourne, a city that witnessed some of the longest and most restrictive lockdown practices anywhere in the world last year, had all but eliminated the virus until a local case of the B.1.1.7 variant was detected in a worker at a hotel used to quarantine players, ending its 28-day streak of no community transmission.

U.K. Variant Found in Melbourne Case as Tennis Players Cleared

The Australian Open cohort was tested Thursday, chief contact tracer Jeroen Weimar told reporters. “As those negative results come through they will be released on the basis they have been conducted and very tightly contained within the hotel quarantine system,” he said.

City Locked Down for Three Months Has Bleak Lesson for World

The isolation of tennis players, officials and support staff for more than 24 hours who were staying at the Grand Hyatt added to an already disrupted preparation for the Australian Open as much needed warm-up matches were suspended Thursday so testing could take place. Tennis officials however won’t delay the start of the Australian Open which begins Monday.

U.S. singles world number 40 player Reilly Opelka took to social media to describe his sentiment on the eve of competition while French athlete Benoit Paire expressed his frustration on Twitter. Meanwhile, State Premier Daniel Andrews praised the swift response from the community to get tested. “These are in some respects, the very best outcomes we could have hoped for,” he said.

The case has prompted a tightening of rules including mask-wearing and visitor limits in the nation’s second-most populous city. Australia has had 28,838 cases of Covid-19 and 909 deaths since the pandemic began last year.

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