All travelers entering Australia during the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, regardless of vaccination status, have to quarantine for 14 days in a government-approved hotel.
The situation is no different for Australia’s 480-strong Olympic delegation. They were flown into Sydney in the state of New South Wales from Tokyo and were immediately herded into quarantine hotels for two weeks. (Related: MEDICAL POLICE STATE: Elderly Australian couple forced to drive 300 miles to quarantine hotel after filling out form incorrectly.)
But many of the Olympic athletes who quarantined in Sydney don’t actually come from New South Wales. Many left after the mandatory two-week quarantine to their own home states and territories. At least 16 of the athletes went home to the state of South Australia.
Unfortunately, athletes returning to the state of South Australia were met with another quarantine requirement. The state government told them to isolate for an additional 14 days, sparking outrage among the athletes and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
South Australian government criticized for repressive quarantine
AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll said on Wednesday, Aug. 11, that South Australia’s “double quarantine” order was too punishing. Carroll pointed out that all of the Australian athletes lived and competed under strict “bio-security conditions” while they were in Tokyo.
“While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment,” said Carroll. “They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games.”
Carroll pointed out that the government of South Australia was ignoring sound medical advice from the Australian Institute of Sport. The institute indicated that the prolonged period of isolation the athletes are required to go through could severely challenge their mental health.
The AOC insisted that the athletes returning home to South Australia represented an extremely low risk to their communities, especially since they were tested for COVID-19 almost daily for several weeks. Carroll and the AOC applied for an exemption to the additional two-week quarantine requirement for returning South Australian Olympians. The South Australian health department rejected this application.
The only concession the state government gave the Olympic athletes is allowing them to spend their two-week quarantine at their homes rather than at a government-approved quarantine hotel.
“Athletes subject to home quarantine will not be permitted a welcome home hug,” said Carroll. “Either the athlete’s family must move away, the athlete must find a way of isolating from the family or the entire family goes into quarantine.”
“That is not an acceptable option for someone … who has already just completed two weeks’ quarantine.”
South Australia is the only state or territory in Australia to impose double quarantine requirements. Every other jurisdiction only requires one two-week quarantine.
South Australians support extreme double quarantine
South Australian residents have expressed their support for their government’s extreme and repressive double quarantine requirement. Many of them said the athletes did a great job in the Tokyo Olympics but argued that they were not above the law.
“I’m tired of this,” said James, a caller to ABC Radio Adelaide. “These athletes were very fortunate that they were able to go to the games and I admire them, they have done a wonderful job, but the fact is that all of us are suffering.”
“I wasn’t able to go to Western Australia for the birth of my first grandchild and it’s just the way of the world,” added James. “Their officials perhaps haven’t dealt with it appropriately, it’s unfortunate but they have been very fortunate they’ve been able to go to Tokyo to participate [in the Olympics].”
Stuart Jones, a resident of South Australia, explained that he did not believe the Olympians deserved special treatment just because they represented the country in the world’s most prestigious sporting event. He explained that he and his wife, both in their late 70s, are fully vaccinated but are still treated the same as everybody else. He expects the same of the athletes.
“People like us who struggle to get through, we get absolutely no recognition for the fact that we’ve got double vaccination or anything like that,” said Jones. “But we are lucky we’ve got [our vaccinations], so we put up with it.”
Carroll, who joined the radio broadcasters at ABC Radio Adelaide as the listeners called in, stressed that the athletes presented virtually no risk to South Australia.
“I don’t disagree with your listeners and callers that you want to keep your borders safe, the [AOC] and the Australian Olympic Team are not asking for anything special,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australian athletes could only express their extreme disappointment with how they were treated by the South Australian government.
“It is disappointing,” said Belinda White, a member of the women’s national softball team. “It hurts that I’ve just seen all my friends and teammates go straight home to their families – although they’re in lockdown, they at least get to see their family.”
White said she prepared herself mentally to spend two weeks quarantining in Sydney. But she was not prepared for the second quarantine.
“I can’t quarantine with anyone because it affects them, so, it definitely hurts.”
Pandemic.news has the latest updates regarding the extreme lockdown and quarantine rules in Australia.