International travel restrictions could push Australian Open overseas

The Australian Open could be moved overseas as a result of players’ distaste for the federal government’s compulsory two-week quarantine this year.

ABC Sport reported that tennis players would not be willing to undergo Australia’s hard quarantine next year, after going through it this year.

During WTA and ATP events in the US and Europe, players only need to isolate until they receive a negative COVID-19 test. After that, they are allowed to train and compete in a bubble environment without complete self-isolation.

Dubai and Doha, which hosted qualifying events before this year’s tournament, are understood by ABC Sport to be considered as potential host cities should the event need to be relocated.

The national broadcaster also reported that the Australian Open organisers will take the event overseas rather than cancel if the government does not come to an agreement on more flexible quarantine arrangements.

Tennis Australia told Travel Weekly it currently plans to host the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne as usual but hinted that the location of the grand slam would depend on how the situation develops.

“We continue to work with government on the best and safest environment for both fans and players,” a spokesperson for Tennis Australia said.

The report comes as the government doubles down on its hard border stance, while concern from backbenchers and the private sector about Australia becoming a “hermit” state gain traction.

Last week’s Federal Budget was planned on the assumption that international borders would not reopen until mid-next year, and last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he didn’t believe Australians has the “appetite” for international travel.

With tens of thousands of Aussies still fighting to get home and dozens being kicked off repatriation flights from India, the federal Opposition is hitting back at the government and accused them of failing to protect Australians overseas, according to ABC News.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has defended the government’s stance and said the focus was not just on saving Australian’s lives, but also “protecting Australian jobs and its economic future”.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve managed to facilitate the return home of many hundreds of thousands of Australians, including more than 20 thousand coming back from India during the course of the pandemic,” Birmingham told Sky News.

“And yes, we see deeply challenging and troubling times in India right now and we are working to make sure that we can continue the repatriation of Australians from India, but we’re doing so in a way that doesn’t jeopardise the health outcomes and the economic outcomes that Australia has enjoyed throughout this pandemic.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joice has expressed concerns that Australia risks becoming a “hermit state” if borders remain shut for too long.

Liberal MPs have since echoed Joyce’s concerns, with Dave Sharma, Tim Wilson and Jason Falinski telling The Sydney Morning Herald that the public’s tolerance for the international border closure would wear thin as the vaccine rollout progressed.

“Like many measures, international border closures had a temporary place, but it is not sustainable and will turn us into a hermit outpost,” said Wilson, the member for Goldstein in Melbourne.

“While public sentiment may still support closures now, it will change as people are vaccinated and business people need to travel, families need to be united and we come to realise how much it is costing our country.”

Falinksi, the member for Mackellar on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, said vaccinated Australians should be allowed to travel overseas.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia pushed back their planned resumption of international travel beyond the trans-Tasman bubble following the Federal Budget’s mid-2022 timeline for the reopening of Australia’s international border.

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