The world champion has revealed he is playing with the fear of contracting the deadly bug in his head despite the early part of the snooker calendar being moved behind closed doors to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
World Snooker Tour confirmed on Monday that two professionals had tested positive for Covid-19 – Gary Wilson and Daniel Wells – forcing them to miss the European Masters. Another three players – Elliot Slessor, Michael White and David Lilley – also had to withdraw from the tournament for safety reasons.
O'Sullivan had been due to meet Wells in his first competitive match of the new campaign before losing 5-4 to Irish rookie Aaron Hill in the second round in a major shock.
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"To be honest it just made me feel even more vulnerable than I already did at the venue," O'Sullivan told reporters.
“You know the guys that either failed or came into contact with them have also come into contact with other people.
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"So there is an extra thought of ‘keep your distance, here’ because for all you know one day there could be 50 per cent of people that have got it.
“You really have got to do the tests, stay away, wear your mask and keep sanitising your hands.
“I am very paranoid about it — I have had people that have died around me and seen healthy people get really ill.
“And no one really knows the long-term effects of it either.
“So I don’t want to take any chances and take it very seriously."
“I don’t live with the other players, so I don’t know how they behave, or what they do away from the venues.
“But for me it’s very much, ‘keep your distance at all times until we know it’s safe to do otherwise’."
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O'Sullivan said the game's authorities were treating players like "lab rats" with plans to allow fans in to watch the World Championship in Sheffield last month before government guidelines saw spectators only watch the first and final days of the Crucible event.
The Essex man remains concerned about the level of safety despite no members of the public likely to be in attendance for the rest of the year.
"I don’t want to take any risks. Last week at Milton Keynes I was telling people to stay away from me, keep away – I don’t want anyone near me," said O'Sullivan, who is due to return to action at the Championship League on Monday 5 October in a group that contains Iulian Boiko, Li Hang and Alex Borg.
“I don’t know if they had come into contact with the other guys that failed the test, you can’t watch everyone all the time. Why take the risk?
“I am surprised that there weren’t any positive tests before last week.
“I was starting to wonder if they were actually doing them!
“Around the world and in every other sport there had been some positive results, so in a strange way for me it was reassuring that the process has done its job.
“At least you know that measure is working.”
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