The difference between the Australian Open COVID plan and rules at other international tournaments

The world’s best tennis players have had an abrupt introduction to the world of hotel quarantine and isolation upon their arrival into Australia.

Of all the players set to compete in the first major of the season, 72 are now in hard quarantine after three of the 17 charter flights were impacted by positive COVID tests.

Some players have criticised the hard quarantine, saying they did not know that everyone on a flight would have to quarantine in the event of a positive test, although that has been contradicted by some other players.

Regardless, the increase in restrictions the players are facing has come as a shock to their collective systems. So why is that?

What have the rules been at other tournaments?

Like most sports around the world in 2020, tennis endured a hiatus of several months, with tournaments, including Wimbledon, cancelled across the world.

However, after that period off, tennis got back underway, with the US and French Opens both taking place, in conjunction with their associated warm-up tournaments.

Those tournaments used very similar protocols to those being used in Australia.

At the US Open, players were placed in a bio-secure bubble, with allocated hotels close to the National Tennis Centre site at Flushing Meadows.

Naomi Osaka wore masks with names of people killed as a result of police brutality in America during the US Open.(AP: Frank Franklin II)

Players were regularly tested, twice within 48 hours of arriving in New York before being accredited, and then re-tested every four days after. At the Australian Open, players will be tested every day.

Heading off site, including visiting Manhattan, was banned and players had to wear masks when not on court.

The US Open even moved a warm-up event, the Cincinnati Open, to Flushing Meadows to reduce the amount of travel for players, much in the same way that the pre-Australian Open tournaments were moved from Perth, Brisbane and Sydney to Melbourne.

Players were told to wear masks at all times apart from playing, as well as subjecting themselves to daily temperature testing and a questionnaire before being allowed access.

The rules around the French Open, which took place two weeks after the conclusion of the US Open, were similar.

Simona Halep holds a trophy and a bunch of flowers while wearing a mask
Simona Halep won the Italian Open, prior to the French Open.(LaPresse via AP: Alfredo Falcone)

Were the players OK with that?

There was some dissent at the conditions imposed on players for the return to tennis.

Novak Djokovic, who has also called for changes in quarantine for players in Australia, criticised the conditions that were imposed for the US Open, saying it would be “impossible” to play tennis.

“The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme,” Djokovic said in an interview with Serbian TV prior to the tournament.

“We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week … we could bring one person to the club which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.”

An image posted to Rafa Nadal’s Facebook account on September 2, 2020.
Rafael Nadal did not travel to the US Open, but won the French Open.(Facebook: Rafa Nadal)

Rafael Nadal also didn’t travel, questioning the safety of travelling during the pandemic.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it,” Nadal tweeted ahead of the Open.

“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”

He had no such qualms about travelling to France though, where he won a record-extending 13th French Open title.

Lack of quarantine around the world

Normally, the life of a tennis pro involves multiple smash-and-grab raids around the world — players fly in to a city, play and then fly out again once they’re done.

However, that’s not possible in Australia due to the federal requirement to quarantine.

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Record-Breaking Property Loans Revealed by Australian Bureau of Statistics

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Australians are borrowing more money for property than ever before.

It was recorded that a rising 5.6 per cent to $24 billion is the total value of new loan commitments for housing reached a record high in November 2020. The amount was almost a third higher than it was in November 2019, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amanda Seneviratne, the ABS’ head of finance and wealth, revealed most of the money was allocated in for homes that already existed.

According to her, “loan commitments for existing dwellings rose 5.9 per cent and were the largest contributor to the rise in November’s owner-occupier housing loan commitments.”

She added the value of construction loan obligations surged to 5.6 per cent in November, skyrocketing to 75 per cent since July. This follows the June’s enactment of the Government’s HomeBuilder grant as a nod to COVID-19.

“Other federal and state government incentives and ongoing low-interest rates also contributed to the continuing growth in new housing loan commitments.” She explained.

The number of loan commitments for first home buyers rose 3.1 per cent to 13,905, marking a stratospheric rise of 42.5 per cent since the start of the year. A huge spike in home loans also marks a return to form for the Australian property market, which was remarkably resilient throughout the worst of the pandemic.

Given this fact, it seemed that the lack of accessibility to view and purchase properties merely rested ordinary trade until vendors, agents and buyers could begin working as normal.

As per, Tim Lawless, Corelogic’s research director, “the number of residential property sales plummeted by 40 per cent through March and April but finished the year with almost 8 per cent more sales relative to a year ago as buyer numbers surged through the second half of the year.”

The director asserted that although the unpredictability is prevalent, housing values showed notable resilience, falling by only 2.1 per cent and recovering with strength throughout the final quarter of 2020.

Less danger from JobKeeper end: Deloitte

Deloitte Access Economics believes the recovery in the jobs market so far makes it less dangerous for JobKeeper to end in March.

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Access to capital crucial to small-business survival: ASBFEO

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has called on the Government to set up a revenue-contingent loan scheme for small businesses. The Ombudsman said that such a move is critical to the cashflow requirements of many SMEs in staying solvents in the next 12 months with COVID fiscal stimulus measures ending and banks still making the loans process so complicated and time-consuming for small businesses.

“Unfortunately, it’s a perfect storm scenario, especially for those small businesses that haven’t been able to fully recover from the COVID crisis,” Carnell said.

“Access to credit will be critical to keeping those otherwise viable small businesses afloat, particularly over the coming months as support measures are phased out and the bills start flowing in again.”

The Ombudsman is advocating for a revenue-contingent loan scheme for small businesses that mirrors the HECS scheme, meaning borrowers will only have to start making repayments once their turnover reaches a specified level. The proposal is that the Federal Government fund the scheme, and that maximum loan values are calculated based on each SME’s annual revenue, with businesses applying for funding needing to pass  a viability test to qualify.

“Sudden lockdowns and border closures have heavily impacted small businesses in recent weeks – it’s no wonder they are scared to take on additional bank debt given conditions can deteriorate so rapidly,” Carnell said.

“Even in the best of times, small businesses have struggled to secure finance. Taking into account the enormous challenges they are now facing, the fallout of insufficient working capital could be devastating, not only for small business owners and their staff, but for the broader economy,” Carnell added.

“The latest ASIC data shows external administrator appointments were up by 23 per cent in December 2020 and economists are predicting the number of businesses entering voluntary administration to rise this year.

“A revenue-contingent loan scheme would give small businesses the confidence they need to seek funding, so they can survive and employ again. It’s essential to Australia’s economic recovery.”

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2021 Australian Open COVID crisis deepens, Pfizer vaccine deaths in Norway spark concern, worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

Three mystery cases of the same strain of COVID-19 that erupted within hours of each other at opposite ends of Sydney’s northern beaches are at the centre of the hunt for the outbreak’s patient zero.

However, the popular theory that Sydney’s latest wave of cases was spawned by a celebrity or a business identity self-isolating on the beaches’ affluent northern peninsula appears to have been debunked by authorities.

NSW Health has revealed it did not grant any exemptions to isolate outside of hotel quarantine to any local residents in the month leading up to the outbreak.

Find out what else health authorities know so far about “patient zero”.

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Minderoo ups spend to $88m

Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation spent $88 million on philanthropic causes in 2020, giving $19.7 million to its Flourishing Oceans initiative.

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Fifth COVID-19 case detected among Australian Open arrivals

A fifth case of COVID-19 has been detected among arrivals for the Australian Open in Melbourne, sending a third flight of tennis players into strict quarantine.

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Just send them a text: leveraging SMS for business


the exclusive domain of personal communications to friends and family, SMS has
quickly become the most effective platform for businesses to engage with their
customers and staff.

At 98
per cent, SMS has one of the highest open rates of any platform with most
people opening a text within just 90 seconds of receiving it. This ensures
messages, offers or promotions are not only seen by more people, but at a
faster rate than they would be on other platforms.

In addition to improving customer response times, effective SMS communications facilitate higher customer engagement and conversion with an average response rate of 30 per cent. SMS marketing has a higher ROI than any other platform with 50 per cent of those responders typically making a purchase. This redemption rate for promotional coupons is 10 times higher than any other channel.

maximum cut through and engagement, small businesses can utilise SMS for a
range of marketing and customer communications including promotional messages,
appointment reminders, booking confirmations, click and collect, event
management and satisfaction surveys. SMS is also ideal for standardised and
auditable communications to employees, including availability checks, RU Safe
and lone worker notifications.

the challenge for small businesses has always been how do you deploy SMS at
scale so that you’re not welded to your phone all day instead of running your

technology platforms can now be used to implement and automate SMS communications.

Communications platforms like Whispir’s are incredibly versatile and can be utilised by a diverse range of businesses to solve a range of challenges using SMS. They provide fast development capability, cost-effective infrastructure and service delivery, repeatability and reliable process automation – all key benefits when looking at ways to more effectively operate in this new COVID-normal.

capability has extended beyond basic messaging and scheduled delivery, with
businesses now able to use workflows to automate messaging paths based on
keywords or phrases used in the body of the incoming text message responses.

This two-way conversational building block dynamically captures recipient
content to trigger and route further automated communications.

the great news for small businesses is that the platforms have low-code/no-code
capability. This means it will integrate with what IT system you’re using and
can be quickly implemented and used without the need for outside IT expertise.
They use drag and drop style templates so that you can build them yourself.

For example, your businesses could use this capability to ascertain customer interest in a virtual event. Based on whether the recipient’s answer was “yes” or “not right now”, they can respond to the recipient with additional information on the event. This information can then be routed to the business email to record responses for follow-up and reporting purposes.

Automated SMS responses are completely customisable and not limited to Yes, No or numbered list responses. Businesses are also not limited with the number of SMS responses prompts they can establish and can set time constraints for when SMS responses are captured. For example, if you’re messaging your staff about a vacant shift tomorrow, you can select to only capture responses that are received today. Businesses can also use the same platforms to preset different automated responses in instances when the recipient hasn’t responded to the initial.

messaging significantly improves customer experience, providing seamless contextual
engagement based on earlier recipient interactions. As SMS messages can
incorporate URL links, businesses can use messaging pathways, conditional logic
and triggers to move customers and employees online to purpose-built web pages
that do not require an app.

automating more of the communication journey, organisations can build loyalty
with their customers, resolve enquiries faster, save time and improve user

Ben Erskine, Head of Content,
communications workflow platform provider Whispir

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Victoria plans for international students’ return with special quarantine housing | Australian universities

The Victorian state government is hoping to bring international students back into the state in 2021, as student advocates say they are happy to pay for quarantine and accommodation in a similar set-up to the 1,200 people allowed in for the Australian Open.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the premier, Daniel Andrews, said the state was “working closely” with the federal government to bring international students back into Victoria, where they contribute $13.7bn a year to the state’s economy.

Despite the national cabinet announcing earlier in the month that arrival caps would be reduced, the Australian newspaper has reported that a potential plan to bring in students will be discussed at a meeting of the national cabinet on 5 February.

While the Victorian government has not shared any details of how many students it hopes to bring in, or how they would be quarantined, Phil Honeywood, the CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, said students and universities were willing to pay.

“We put to the Victorian government a plan for separate quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation,” Honeywood told Guardian Australia. “We wouldn’t take up any hotel beds. The international students and the education providers would pay. The taxpayer wouldn’t pay anything.”

Honeywood said Victoria had agreed to allow tennis players in for the Australian Open, and the federal government had allowed cricketers in – but that international students posed less of a virus risk, and contributed more to the economy over more years.

“While the sector understands the need for Australian citizens to be given priority, what we find hard to understand is 1,200 tennis players including their entourages, hundreds of cricket players and their entourages, and thousands of military personnel invited for training purposes have been able to come in,” he said.

“Those professional sportspeople are only here for three weeks. They have got much more [Covid] safety issues attached to them, compared to international students who are here for three to four years.”

Under the arrangements for the Australian Open, Victoria opened up three new hotels for quarantining tennis players and associated people, paid for by Tennis Australia. And in November, some international students returned to the Northern Territory and quarantined in the Howard Springs former mining camp after the territory government struck a deal with the federal government.

“The frustration is the Northern Territory government were able to prove it can be done,” Honeywood said. “They brought 63 returning international students from five different countries into Darwin in November. None of them had Covid. All of them went straight from the airport to quarantine and they have been happily studying at Charles Darwin University.”

Honeywood welcomed the Victorian government’s plan to bring students back, but said the federal and state governments needed to provide a “logistical or definite plan”.

“We have a virtual game of pass the parcel between different levels of government,” he said.

“When we speak to the federal government about border openings and pilot programs, they tell us to speak to the state government. State government tells us to speak to federal – because they control [the Australian] border force. The national cabinet’s decision only a week ago to cut the number of international arrivals by half clearly has not assisted our sector, our industry.”

The South Australian government had also arranged a program to bring in 300 international students in November, which was put on hold when the state had its short-lived second Covid wave.

Honeywood said the South Australian government had indicated that the students could be brought back in February but “there has been no announcement made by the state government”.

“In Victoria, apart from the headline in the Australian, the premier hasn’t given any indicative date or information. They haven’t indicated to us how many students they take in, or when. We are hoping it is not another state government giving a nod in our direction and not backing it up with any logistical or definite plan.”

According to the Victorian government, international students brought in $13.7bn for the state in 2019 and supported 79,000 jobs.

In 2019, the state had 250,000 international students, but that number halved to 120,000 due to the border closures brought on by the pandemic.

Honeywood said letting international students back into the country would have a multiplier effect on the country’s economy.

“According to government figures, 240,000 Australians work in the international education industry,” he said. “These are not just teaching jobs; they include people who work in student accommodation, in marketing and student support services. Already we have seen thousands of these jobs made redundant.

“Semester one is our main intake. If we don’t have any intake of any remaining students, it’s estimated to be an $8bn hit to the national economy, over the year.”

A spokesman for Andrews said: “The Victorian government is working closely with education providers and the Australian government to welcome international students back to Victoria when it is safe to do so.

“We will follow all protocols and preconditions set by the Australian government and adhere to the public health advice and directions set by the Victorian chief health officer.”

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FIRM to build $49m Cannington apartments

Subiaco-based FIRM Construction has secured the works to design and build a 10-storey apartment building opposite Carousel Shopping Centre.

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