Some Olympians Returning to Australia Have to Double Quarantine
They traveled to Tokyo to represent their country at the Summer Olympics, winning 46 medals for Australia in swimming, cycling, basketball and more. But that hasn’t exempted Australian Olympians from their country’s strict quarantine rules, which for some athletes can be up to 28 days.
Anyone flying to Australia must self-quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, with many Olympians arriving in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, and ending their quarantine there. But 16 athletes traveling from Sydney to the state of South Australia must spend an additional 14 days in quarantine at home, a requirement the country’s Olympic committee called “cruel and indifferent”.
South Australia has tightened its border controls since last month, when a man who traveled there after completing his quarantine in Sydney tested positive for the coronavirus, sending the state into a lockdown of seven days. Sydney is at the center of a nationwide virus outbreak triggered by the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, baffling a country that has minimized cases for most of the pandemic. Almost half of Australia’s population is currently stranded, including in the capital Canberra, which began a seven-day lockdown on Thursday after reporting its first locally acquired infections in more than a year.
Belinda White, a member of the softball team, said Thursday that the extra 14 days seemed like “a slap in the face” after representing her country at the Olympics.
Ms White arrived in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, on Thursday afternoon after completing the two-week quarantine in Sydney. Speaking to reporters via a virtual press conference while in home quarantine, she said she understood why officials thought the second quarantine was necessary, but that it was “certainly not what to do with it. what I expected and a bit of a shock to the system. I hadn’t prepared for 28 days of this.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Australian Olympic Committee denounced the “double quarantine” as lacking in “science and common sense”. The committee noted that the athletes were all fully vaccinated and said that such a long quarantine could be harmful to their mental health.
“As other countries celebrate the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and indifferent treatment,” said Matt Carroll, executive director of the committee. “They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games.”
The committee said its request to waive South Australian athletes from the extra 14 days was rejected without explanation.
Steven Marshall, the Prime Minister of South Australia, defended the policy on Thursday.
“I think most people can accept that we have to be careful in South Australia,” he told local reporters. “We have a quality of life that most of the rest of the world is, they are very envious of the situation that we have, so we are going to do everything we can to protect that.”
He said officials informed the Australian Olympic Committee of the requirement last month and that the majority of South Australia’s 56 athletes were not returning via Sydney and therefore did not need to make the extra 14 days.
“It’s tough, it’s very tough, and we think of those athletes, but everyone coming from Sydney right now is required to do 14 days of quarantine,” added Marshall.
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