Tennis-Australian Open quarantine plan faces legal challenge

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Men's Singles Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - February 2, 2020. General view during Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Austria's Dominic Thiem match. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Apartment owners on the premises of a luxury Melbourne hotel are seeking to quash plans by Australian Open organisers to use the hotel to quarantine players ahead of the Grand Slam.

The apartment owners at the Westin Melbourne are concerned for their health and never agreed to international players quarantining at the hotel, their lawyer Graeme Efron told Reuters on Monday.

"My instructions are to get an injunction. So at this stage, that's where we’re going," Efron said.

Hundreds of players are expected to arrive in Melbourne in mid-January and undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine as part of COVID-19 protocols before the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open.

Efron said the Westin had informed the owners on Christmas Eve about the quarantine plans and presented it as a "done deal."

"No-one has told us that this has been mandated by a government authority to turn a partly residential city hotel into a quarantine hotel," he said.

Owners, who include some of the country's top business people, said they felt "ambushed" by the quarantine plan.

"At 84, I'm in the vulnerable group and it's shocking the way they tried to ram this through without any attempt to consult with us," owner Digby Lewis told Fairfax media.

Westin management said their "COVID safe" plan had been shared with the owners corporation, adding that residents would use a separate entrance and lifts and have no contact with players and quarantine staff.

"Their floor will remain exclusive while there will be no reticulation of ventilation between the floors," the Westin said in a statement.

Tennis Australia did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Melbourne, capital of Victoria state, was the epicentre of Australia's largest second wave outbreak of COVID-19, which started at two quarantine hotels for international arrivals.

More than 18,000 infections were recorded in Victoria during the outbreak and nearly 800 deaths.

Victoria recorded three new cases on Monday, as authorities scrambled to trace close contacts from an outbreak that began in mid-December in Sydney's Northern Beaches area.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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