Australian Open chief says there are ‘unanswered questions’ around the Covid variant

Lucy Roberts
Melbourne Park - Australian Open general

Covid-19’s new variant of concern is alarming Australian Open officials and Tennis Australia as their Grand Slam is vastly approaching.

The World Health Organisation has branded the new variant as Omicron and it was first discovered in South Africa, causing countries around the globe to enforce strict travel bans and guidelines, including Australia who paused the latest phase of the easing of their border restrictions which was due to start December 1.

Head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, is uncertain about the situation but is confident the Australian Open will still go ahead if the situation doesn’t drastically deteriorate.

“We knew that when we announced the event there would be some more challenges just because of the nature of the world we have been living in for the last two years,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions around this and I think in the next 14 days we will get some more clarity.

“But at this point the plans are going ahead as they are.”

Players are due to be flying out to the country for the season-opening major in a few weeks with the first flights arriving between December 27-28.

As it stands everyone will be required to take a PCR test before departing and then take another test when they arrive in Australia, however in the state of Victoria where the tournament is being held, it is now mandatory to isolate for 14 days if anyone becomes infected with the new Omicron variant or is a close contact of someone who has.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement: “We will continue to take sensible and responsive evidence based action, led by medical experts.

“This will ensure we can open safely, and stay safely open as we learn to live with the virus.”

It isn’t just the Australian Open that Tiley is concerned about but Tennis Australia are also planning to stage 17 tournaments in January in different states around the country which all have differing rules on vaccination status.

Victoria which is hosting the Grand Slam requires all players to be fully vaccinated in order to take part in the tournament, however this won’t be the same for all states and therefore all competitions have different rules which Tennis Australia will have to monitor.

Novak Djokovic has been hitting the headlines due to his refusal to reveal his vaccination status, and his dad has called out the organisers of the competition, branding their policy of only allowing fully jabbed players to take part in the Australian Open as “blackmail.”

The Australian Open is due to start January 17.