Two more Australian Open players test positive for COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2018. A person picks up tennis balls in front of the Australian Open logo before the tennis tournament. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Two more Australian Open players tested positive for COVID-19, an official said on Wednesday, as the government confirmed it would send the quarantine bill for the tournament to Tennis Australia's desk.

Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville said two players and a non-playing Australian Open participant comprised three new infections reported on Wednesday.

A total of 10 people associated with the Grand Slam, including four players, have now tested positive for the virus.

The has been confusion over the exact numbers, with several test results later reclassified by authorities as "viral shedding" from previous infections.

The viral shedders are not contagious.

Neville said authorities were "very confident" one of the two new player infections was a case of viral shedding.

"Of the other two, it's less clear that they're shedding. That will be worked through, and that's one player and one support person," Neville told reporters.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said two players reported to have tested positive on Tuesday were also viral shedders.

More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests.

Authorities have shelled out huge funds to fly over 1,200 players, coaches and officials on 17 charter flights to Australia to put on the year's first Grand Slam.

Tennis Australia (TA) boss Tiley told radio station 3AW quarantine costs may exceed A$40 million, part of which would be covered by the state government of Victoria.

The huge expense and effort to fly in the players during the pandemic has angered some Australians, with thousands of the country's citizens stranded overseas due to travel restrictions.

Neville was adamant taxpayers would not be footing the bill for the quarantine costs, prompting TA to row back and issue a statement saying tournament organisers would pick up the tab.

A number of players have complained about the hard quarantine, raising concerns they may be at a disadvantage to better-prepared rivals.

Daniel Vallverdu, coach of three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, said organisers needed to give preferential treatment to players unable to train for two weeks. [L4N2JV0ZA]

Kazakh women's world number 28 Yulia Putintseva complained again of mice in her quarantine hotel room. Police minister Neville promised more pest control but urged players not to feed the rodents.

($1 = 1.2967 Australian dollars)

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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