New Delhi: A group of Australian Olympic athletes were Wednesday facing 28 days in quarantine on return from Tokyo in a move slammed as “cruel” and “uncaring” as concerns mount over their mental wellbeing.
All overseas travellers, including the nearly 500-strong Australian team, are required to spend 14 days’ isolation in a hotel or special outback camp on arrival in the country, under strict coronavirus rules.
But some will have to endure double that after the South Australian government ruled those who could not get direct flights to Adelaide from Tokyo must serve another two weeks of home quarantine when they arrive in the state.
There are 56 athletes returning to South Australia with 16 already undergoing quarantine in Sydney, which is currently in a lockdown to try and stem a Delta variant outbreak.
Australian Olympic Committee chief Matt Carroll said it flew in the face of medical advice from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) around the athletes’ mental health.
“While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment,” he said.
“They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games.”
The entire Australian team, who won 17 gold medals and 46 in total, are fully vaccinated and were tested for COVID-19 almost daily in Japan.
Carroll said this made them “extremely low risk”, yet their application to South Australia to be exempt from the extra 14 days was rejected.
AIS chief medical officer David Hughes called the decision “profoundly flawed”.
“To have individuals quarantined for such a lengthy period of time is, in my opinion, unreasonable and cannot be scientifically justified,” he said.
“It poses a significant risk to the physical and mental wellbeing of the individuals concerned.”
The South Australian government was not immediately available for comment.
Australia had dodged the worst ravages of the pandemic through a strategy of closed borders, lockdowns, mandatory travel quarantine, and aggressive testing and tracing.
But those tools appear blunted in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The nation has recorded about 37,000 cases of COVID-19 and 940 related deaths to date in a population of 25 million.