UPDATE: Australia has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa to enter the country, subduing fan outrage that the tennis pro should not have been given an exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine. Without access to the country or proof of full vaccination, the defending champion and world No. 1 will not be allowed to compete in the upcoming Australian Open tournament.
According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, Novak, “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia,” resulting in his visa being, “subsequently canceled.”
“The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements,” the statement continued. “Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa canceled will be detained and removed from Australia.”
The shocking decision to allow Novak Djokovic to compete in the Australian Open with medical exemption to the Covid-19 vaccine mandate in the country has sparked outrage among politicians and fellow tennis players.
“I don’t care how good a tennis player he is. If he’s refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn’t be allowed in,” said Stephen Parnis, former vice-president of the Australian Medical Association. “If this exemption is true, it sends an appalling message to millions seeking to reduce #COVID19Aus risk to themselves & others. #Vaccination shows respect, Novak.”
The defending Australian Open champion and No. 1 tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic had previously dodged questions about his vaccination status until the recent medical exemption from Australian Open officials all but confirmed that he had yet to receive the Covid vaccine.
Stating that he was “opposed to vaccination,” he said that, “I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”
So, on Tuesday night, the former champ shockingly announced on Twitter that he would be competing in the upcoming tournament in Melbourne because he was granted an “exemption permission.”
According to The Guardian, the Australian Open’s Covid-19 safety protocols and guidelines stated that all participants must be fully vaccinated or apply for medical exemption to enter without the standard 14-day quarantine.
It is unknown why Novak Djokovic was granted the exemption, but participants upset over the potential double standard have expressed dismay to the federal government, which may have an extra say in enforcing the matter.
Karen Andrews, the home affairs minister, said on Wednesday that, “it is the commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border.”
“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully vaccinated travelers,” she said. “Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements. No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”
Arriving at the airport in Melbourne Wednesday morning, Novak was indeed stopped by customs agents after it was reported that he had the wrong kind of visa for medical exemption. Authorities are allegedly attempting to solve the problem, though the tennis pro remains unable to enter the country.
Following outrage from the public, Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, stated that a “robust” panel decided to grant Novak the exemption in a process that went “above and beyond what anyone coming to Australia would have experienced,” but that it would probably help if Novak told the public why he was exempt.
“I think it’ll certainly be helpful if Novak was to explain the condition for which he sought an exemption and he got the exemption,” Tiley said. “But ultimately, it’s up to him.”
Some Australian tennis players also spoke on the matter when asked in a press conference at the ATP tournament in Sydney, citing confusion and shock.
“Look, I don’t know the criteria for exemptions,” said James Duckworth, currently ranked No. 45 in the world. “Apparently it’s an independent panel. He must have fit the criteria somehow.”
Alex de Minaur, the current No. 34 ranked tennis pro, called Duckworth’s answer “very politically correct of you,” but stated that, “I just think it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.”
The decision has also drawn anger from fans on social media, who called the medical exemption a “slap in the face” and a complete “disgrace” after what Australian’s faced for the past two years.
“It makes no sense to me, when Australians are making extraordinary sacrifices, to see an elite tennis player allowed to participate in the system,” said Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanes. “And I don’t think it’ll make any sense to those healthcare workers who are working their guts out each and every day.”
As of Wednesday morning, Novak Djokovic has been denied entry to the country.