Just a year ago, the Australian Open strictly required players to be fully vaccinated, and on top of that tested them all the time and put them in isolation if the test was positive for COVID-19. Two years ago the tournament was played in an extremely controled enviroment, in a biosecure bubble. In 2023, the rules are so relaxed that even players positive for coronavirus can compete.
Players will not be tested for COVID-19 at the 2023 Australian Open and will be allowed to play even if they have the virus. Athletes who are sick are only recommended but not required to stay away from competition.
“We just wanted to follow what’s currently in the community,” tournament director Craig Tiley said. “We have gone a step further by making a recommendation around staying away when you’re ill.”
Tiley also said that “there will potentially be players that will compete with COVID-19.” That’s a stark difference to last year when COVID negative players faced unexpected deportations due to their medical exemptions for vaccination being unaccepted or two years ago when just one person on a charter flight testing positive would send all the people who were on that flight into hard quarantine.
Canada’s Bianca Andreescu is bewildered by the new rules, as she replied to a tweet: “Last time I was in Melbourne I was quarantined in my room for two weeks. Damn.” It was in 2021, when Andreescu had to spend two weeks in hard quarantine, as her coach tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Melbourne. At the time, 72 players were isolated in strict hotel isolation and their preparation for the tournament was hampered. (source: BBC)
The reason for the change is that two years ago no-one was vaccinated. A year ago the vaccination rate was pretty high but we were still in transition from the old regime to the new. Now everyone who is going to be vaccinated is vaccinated and the rule in the community is that you don’t have to isolate. Most ethical and decent people are still isolating to some extent if they have Covid but it is no longer compulsory. Personally I think it is crazy for the tournament to say players can still play if they have Covid. Imagine if you are a player who gets it from another player and your tournament is ruined! You would be so annoyed not to mention affected financially. But the other players will just have to rely on ethical decency on the part of anyone who gets sick. Not like Novak who still went out when he had it in Serbia last year.
This certainly presents an ethical dilemma! If we flip the above scenario- if a qualifier tests positive but has only very mild symptoms- would you give up possibly earning thousands of dollars to do the right thing by others? I’m not saying it’s right, to continue playing, but it’s certainly not an easy decision….
I figure that basic good manners are to not get in contact with people if you are sick, especially if it is infectious. However, Karo, as you say, a lot of money is at stake and if a player feels fine enough, I am sure that they will play. And that’s probably fine, as long as they avoid close contact with others. It is good to see that we’re finally over with restrictions, but it does look like Australia is going from one extreme to another.