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Hundreds isolate in Melbourne after new virus case but Australian Open set to go ahead


Hundreds of Victorians, as well as Australian Open players and officials, are self-isolating after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive to COVID-19 but organisers insist the Grand Slam tournament will go ahead as planned on Monday.

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The 26-year-old man from Noble Park in the city’s southeast returned a positive test on Wednesday, five days after he completed his last shift as a resident support officer at the Grand Hyatt hotel, as part of the Australian Open quarantine program.

As masks and other restrictions were reintroduced in Melbourne, two of the man’s close household contacts tested negative, while health authorities have been able to reach 19 of the 20 people identified as close contacts.

A further 600 casual contacts also have been told to isolate and get tested, as have 520 Australian Open players, officials and support staff.

Melbourne Park matches were suspended on Thursday, but they will resume on Friday and tournament director Craig Tiley said the Open would go ahead as planned from next Monday.

Wastewater samples collected from the southeast on Tuesday have also come back negative for COVID-19.

“These are all good positive early signs. We have got to this in good time,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Thursday.

He said a review of CCTV at the Grand Hyatt showed the man was a “model employee” who correctly followed all safety procedures.

“We can find no problem, no breach of protocol, anything of that nature in terms of his employment,” Mr Andrews said.

The case brought the state’s 28-day run of zero community transmission to an end and prompted a reintroduction of a number of restrictions.

Masks must now be worn indoors and the number of visitors allowed in private homes has been halved to 15, while a scheduled increase in the number of workers allowed to return to the office has been put on hold.

It is still unknown if the man is carrying a more-virulent international variant of the virus, with the results of genomic testing expected on Friday.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said it was likely the man contracted the virus from a positive case in the quarantine hotel.

“It’s not rocket science to say he’s probably caught it from one of the cases. We are aware there were six cases at that hotel,” he said, noting four were the more highly infectious UK variant.

Cheng said it was “unlikely” the Australian Open would be cancelled but warned the situation was unfolding.

A number of hotel quarantine security guards last year contracted COVID-19, sparking Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which killed hundreds of people and led to months of lockdown.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the state could not afford to have a repeat of history.

“This is how it started last year. The government said that they learnt their lessons … clearly, something went wrong,” he said.

Capacity is being boosted at testing sites across the state, as a list of exposure sites grows.

Anyone who has visited the sites, which are largely situated in Melbourne’s southeast, have been told to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

The Queensland Government said again closing the border to Victoria was unnecessary but urged people who had visited Greater Melbourne since January 29 to get tested and isolate until they receive the results.

Those who have visited exposure sites will need to isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.

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