MELBOURNE: One case of COVID-19 among those in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open has been reclassified, local health officials said on Sunday, leaving nine active cases in the group of players and support staff isolating in Melbourne hotels.
Health officials previously said they were investigating some positive tests for evidence of "viral shedding", where people who have had the virus continue to shed non-infectious remnants after they have recovered.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria also said in a statement that the one case of the virus acquired overseas reported on Sunday was not connected to the tennis Grand Slam.
Most of the 970 people in the Australian Open quarantine hotels have entered their second week of the 14-day isolation period with the first arrivals due to be freed from lockdown on Friday.
While most have been allowed out to train for five hours a day, around 72 have been confined to their rooms after the positive cases on the charter flights that brought them to Australia.
Four players were among the cases initially reported as being associated with the tennis but only Spain's Paula Badosa has confirmed that she tested positive.
Badosa's quarantine period restarted when the test result was confirmed, meaning the 23-year-old will have almost no time to prepare for the Feb. 8 start of the Australian Open.
There was bad news for another player in quarantine early on Sunday when the International Tennis Federation denied Dayana Yastremska's application to have her provisional suspension for a doping violation set aside.
The Ukrainian world number 29, who denied using performance-enhancing substances when her positive test for an anabolic agent was revealed in January, has the right to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Three of the nine cases of COVID-19 linked to the Australian Open were on Saturday revealed to be for the more transmissible coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom.
According to local media, that news scuppered plans to allow the players to associate in groups of up to four, rather that the current two.
Tournament director Craig Tiley told players in a letter on Saturday evening that the environment was not conducive to an easing of restrictions, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
"After consultation with many of you, we have postponed the planned expansion of the cohorts," Tiley wrote.
"Having more people in your cohort is no extra risk to the local community, because you are all in quarantine. But we want to minimise the risk to each of you and that's why we have delayed the expansion and will continue to assess daily."
A rash of complaints from frustrated players on social media in the first few days of lockdown has calmed after some of their fellow competitors urged them to show respect for the efforts the people of Melbourne had made to control the virus.
The state of Victoria, which contains Australia's second-largest city, endured one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns last year.
On Sunday the state recorded an 18th straight day with no local transmissions, while Australia as a whole has not reported a case in the community for nine of the last 10 days.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard)