Australian Olympic athletes returning from Tokyo to South Australia via Sydney will be forced to undergo a double quarantine of 28 days, a mandate that has been described as “cruel and uncaring” by the country’s Olympic Committee.
The athletes are currently undergoing two weeks of quarantine in Sydney as part of the country’s travel rules. But those making the onward journey to their home state of South Australia will have to comply by restrictions on inter-state travel and complete an extra two weeks of quarantine in the South Australian capital of Adelaide.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) condemned the four-week quarantine for some of the team’s athletes.
“While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment. They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games,” AOC Chief Executive Office Matt Carroll said in the statement.
Australia’s Olympic team has 56 members returning to South Australia, with 16 of those currently quarantined in Sydney, according to the AOC. All of the country’s athletes are fully vaccinated.
“They have also been living in a highly controlled bubble in Tokyo, taking the utmost precautions – tested daily over many weeks,” the AOC said in their statement.
South Australia’s state premier Steven Marshall said in a press conference on Thursday it had been a “tough decision” to impose the additional quarantine.
“But we have got to take tough decisions to protect South Australia. When we look interstate, we see devastating conditions really affecting lives. In South Australia, we had our own lockdown in place for seven days. We know the effects of that,” Marshall said.
Australia is currently battling to control an outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant, which has caused lengthy lockdowns in the major population centers of Sydney and Melbourne. The state of New South Wales, where Sydney is located, recorded 345 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday while the Australian capital Canberra announced a week-long lockdown after a Covid-19 infection was detected in the city.
South Australian Premier Marshall said the AOC was not able to set up a “sterile corridor” back to the state for returning athletes.
“So, in other words, they would be going to the airport, they’d be getting on a plane with people who, of course, have to go into 14 days of quarantine,” Marshall said. The South Australian premier said his government was looking into the possibility of allowing athletes to home quarantine for the second set of 14 days.
The AOC said the quarantine “poses a significant mental health risk” for athletes.
“To have individuals quarantined for such a lengthy period of time is in my opinion unreasonable and cannot be scientifically justified. It poses a significant risk to the physical and mental wellbeing of the individuals concerned,” Australia Institute of Sport Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Hughes said.
The Australian team came sixth in the Tokyo 2020 medals table, winning a total of 46 medals: 17 gold, seven silver and 22 bronze.