South Australia is inflicting a cruel double quarantine on Olympians which risks the mental wellbeing of athletes, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says.
The AOC says the SA government’s decision to enforce another 14-day quarantine on athletes returning to the state – on top of their current 14-day period served elsewhere – defies medical advice.
A group of 16 Olympians from SA are currently quarantining in Sydney after returning to Australia from the Tokyo Olympics.
A further 40 SA Olympians will return home at later dates.
The SA government has rejected AOC appeals to grant exemptions for the returning Olympians, who will isolate at their homes rather than at quarantine hotels.
Australia’s Olympic team chief medical officer David Hughes says the SA government decision is flawed.
“To have individuals quarantined for such a lengthy period of time is … unreasonable and cannot be scientifically justified,” Dr Hughes said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It poses a significant risk to the physical and mental wellbeing of the individuals.”
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll sought exemptions on behalf of the athletes from the SA government for the second quarantine period.
“While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment,” Carroll said in a statement.
“By any measure, this group of returning Olympians is extremely low risk.
“Not only are our Olympians fully vaccinated but they have also been living in a highly-controlled bubble in Tokyo, taking the utmost precautions – tested daily, over many weeks.
“We have received no explanation as to why our application on behalf of these athletes has been rejected.”
Carroll said SA was the sole state or territory to enforce a double quarantine.
“Athletes subject to home quarantine will not be permitted a welcome home hug,” he said.
“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 is fully vaccinated and who has already just completed two weeks’ quarantine.”
Adelaide’s Belinda White, a member of Australia’s Olympic softball team, will be the first athlete impacted.
White will complete her 14-day quarantine in Sydney on Thursday with Softball Australia’s chief executive officer David Pryles worried at her wellbeing during her next 14 days of isolation in Adelaide.
“To force Belinda to undergo an extra 14 days by herself upon returning to her hometown of Adelaide frankly gives us concern for the mental well-being of our returning Olympian,” Pryles said.
“Belinda has been away from friends and family since June 1 in Japan, fully vaccinated … should Belinda be required to quarantine again, she would have been away from loved ones for a total of 87 days.
“To force another 14 days quarantine on athletes returning to their home state is extremely disappointing.”
Comment was being sought from the SA government.