One year after Australia deported Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic for refusing to get vaccinated, Australian Open tournament officials say players this year will not be tested for COVID-19 and would even be allowed to compete even if they had the virus.
Tournament director Craig Tiley told reporters Monday they are telling players and tournament staff to stay away if they feel ill, but otherwise they will not be tested. If they have already been tested, they will not be required to disclose their status.
Tiley said the tournament just wanted to “follow what is currently in the community.”
The new policy is a stark change from the strict protocols of the past two years, when spectators were banned from the tournament, matches were played in a bio-secure “bubble,” and nine-time tournament champion Djokovic was not allowed to play.
Last week, during a Cricket match in Sydney between South Africa and Australia, Australian Cricketer Matt Renshaw was allowed to play in a five-day test match despite testing positive for COVID.
Riley said, “It’s a normalized environment for us and, not dissimilar to cricket, there will potentially be players that will compete with COVID.”
The more relaxed rules for sports reflects Australia’s more relaxed rules regarding COVID-19. At the height of the pandemic, the nation — and Melbourne in particular -— endured some of the longest and strictest lockdowns.
But in the past year, mandates regarding safeguards such as testing, and mask-wearing have been replaced.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.