MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The sports minister for Victoria state says tennis players at January’s Australian Open can expect fewer restrictions on their movements around Melbourne if they are vaccinated for COVID-19.
Martin Pakula also said he was “very confident” of the first Grand Slam tournament of 2022 proceeding at Melbourne Park from Jan. 17-30.
Tennis Australia has not outlined the quarantine requirements or vaccination conditions for international players as well as spectators. At the U.S. Open which started this week, everyone 12 and older must show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter the National Tennis Center — a change in policy announced last Friday.
But players at Flushing Meadows don’t need to be vaccinated. Both the men’s and women’s main tours say that vaccination rates of their players are currently just above 50%.
Former No. 1 Andy Murray is vaccinated and says as regular international travelers, players have a responsibility to “look out for others.”
Pakula agreed with Murray, and added that he expected vaccinated players to have more freedoms in Melbourne.
“Whether or not it’s as strict as you won’t get into Australia if you’re not vaccinated, that I don’t know,” Pakula told a Melbourne radio station on Wednesday.
“What I’m very clear on, what I’m very sure about, is that the rules for unvaccinated players and the rules for vaccinated players, I’m quite confident will be very different. We’ll provide clarity for the ATP and the WTA very shortly, but I think they can be very confident that being vaccinated will be a wise thing for them to do before they seek to come to Australia.”
Australian Open organizers are hoping players can avoid the hard hotel quarantine and other restrictions they endured in 2021 due to rising vaccination rates in the general public in Australia.
On Wednesday, Victorian officials said they had recorded 120 new coronavirus cases, the first time the state has reached triple COVID-19 figures in a year. There have been six lockdowns in Victoria since the pandemic started.
State officials are aiming for an 80% vaccination rate. Currently in Victoria, about 35% of the population has had one or both doses of vaccines.
“We were able to get the tournament away last year and that was with zero percent of the community vaxxed,” Pakula said. “So I’m very confident the Australian Open will go ahead and it’s very important that it does.”
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