The sight of some of the world’s biggest tennis stars at the upcoming Australian Open has disappointed many Australians unable to return home due to the pandemic.
Australia currently has a weekly ceiling on international arrivals, as people have to go into quarantine at a designated facility.
There are approximately 37,000 Australians waiting to return, according to ABC News.
A number of airlines have suspended their routes, making it difficult to return.
Emirates Airlines announced Friday that it will suspend flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Meanwhile, the Australian Open organizers have been running charter flights for players and other crew members.
Players had to take a negative test before boarding the flights and then were placed in quarantine hotels at the Australian Open in Melbourne and Adelaide. However, they are allowed out of their rooms for training.
But two people on a charter flight from Los Angeles with players including two-time champion Victoria Azarenka and former world number three Sloan Stephens were confirmed to have been infected, meaning all passengers on that flight will stay in their rooms for two weeks.
These players will have less than 10 days to train before the tournament begins on February 8th.
At the same time, the former world number one in tennis Andy Murray was unable to travel to Australia After the British tested positive for the Coronavirus.
However, there was one player, Tennys Sandgren, who tested positive He was granted permission to travel by the organizers after reviewing his medical file.
Sandgren posted on social media that he was ill in November but is “in good health now”.
Their arrival, while many Australians are still trying to return home, has drawn criticism.
“I cannot understand the fact that in one week they announced that they were cutting their hats in half for the citizens, and the following week they announced that they had found 1,200 places for tennis players and support staff,” Sarah, a principal worker who lives in London but is from Sydney, told the BBC.
She had been trying to return to Sydney since October, and her last flight was canceled.
“All I want to do is go home. I had to watch my sister’s wedding on Zoom. My flight was timed so I went out of quarantine just in time to shower her baby, but it looks like I’m going to miss this and the birth.”
On Saturday, the Australian government said it would arrange 20 more international flights to bring home its stranded citizens from “priority areas”. One of the ministers confirmed that the returnees will not be counted in the current passenger hats.
Dr Alise Brown is currently based in Cambridge, UK and has booked flights to Sydney next month. She has been trying to raise awareness about this issue.
“While Australians at home watch tennis, I will read on the support pages the daily horror stories of stranded Australians entering a state of homelessness,” she told the BBC, speaking before the government’s latest announcement of flights.
“It has always been apparent to us that Australia has the means to bring its citizens home, they just lack the political will to do so and that makes me indescribably angry. It’s making a tough economic decision and tennis for us is just another group of people who see the government’s priority over us.”
People took to Twitter with the hashtag #strandedaussies to share their opinions.
One user said: “Thousands of Australian citizens are still stranded overseas. I’ve been a big tennis fan for nearly 40 years, but that’s just a mistake. I won’t encourage Australian summer tennis.”
Earlier this week, Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said that if Melbourne canceled the tournament, it would be Another country will pick it up.
What are the rules in Australia?
Australia has strict restrictions on the number of expatriates allowed to enter the country. Authorities say this is to ensure there is enough space in the government quarantine facility.
Unlike other countries, those arriving in Australia must quarantine in a designated facility or hotel instead of their home.
The cap for people entering was lowered last week after a Queensland hotel worker contracted the British variant of the Coronavirus.
Until February 15, New South Wales will have a weekly limit of 1,505 arrivals, Western Australia will allow 512 people, and Queensland will have a cap of 500.
Victoria and South Australia have kept their hats intact. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territories They had their own “custom arrangements” for arrivals.
The Australian government operated a number of repatriation flights but demand was high.
Last month, in an interview with Seven TV, Mr Morrison said that Australians abroad are “The first priority in terms of returning people to the country“.
“We want you to go home and you have every right to go home,” he said.