Australia’s PM says Novak Djokovic will ‘be on the next plane HOME’ if the tennis World No 1 cannot explain his ‘medical exemption’ from being vaccinated that allows him to play in Australian Open
Australia’s Prime Minister has said tennis World No1 Novak Djokovic will ‘be on the next plane home’ if he cannot explain his ‘medical exemption’ from being vaccinated that allows him to play in the Australian Open.
The Serbian tennis star is due to arrive in Melbourne tonight to defend his Grand Slam title, 24 hours after he announced on social media he had received an exemption to play in the tournament and was heading to Australia.
Scott Morrison said that Djokovic, who has repeatedly refused to say whether he has received the coronavirus vaccine, “must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons” to gain entry into the country.
“If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever,” he told a media conference.
The Australian minister for home affairs Karen Andrews, meanwhile, suggested the federal government could potentially block the star’s entry into the country.
Social media users described the devastating impact not being able to see relatives in Australia has had on them and their families.
Laura, from Scotland, said Djokovic’s exemption was “infuriating”.
“I haven’t seen my brother and his family who live in Western Australia for two years, during that time our father died and he couldn’t return to Scotland to attend the funeral,” she wrote.
Another user said he could not go to his dad’s or sister’s funeral in Australia due to restrictions in place at the time.
The decision has sparked sharp criticism in Australia, where more than 90 per cent of over-16s are doubled jabbed, with fans threatening to boycott the annual tournament over the perceived special treatment of the nine-times champion.
‘My view is that any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,’ Mr Morrison told reporters at a press conference today.
‘Now Novak Djokovic, when he arrives in Australia, he has to if he’s not vaccinated, must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully vaccinated travellers.
‘So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that. If that evidence is insufficient, then he will be treated no different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.’
He added that any exemption given to Djokovic will still have to stack up upon arrival in Australia.
‘There are other cases – there are quite a number over the last couple of years – where people have had these exemptions and have the suitable proof to support their claim in those circumstances,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘So the circumstance is not unique. The issue is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption.’
The grounds for Djokovic’s exemption under the ATAGI guidelines have remained private but the tennis star faces growing calls to personally explain how he got approval to enter Australia to contest the tournament without showing his vaccination status.
The Serbian, who has declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the January 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.
The state of usually Victoria does not allow unvaccinated people to enter unless they go through a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine, but on Tuesday the Serbian tennis star announced on social media he was flying to Melbourne after securing a medical exemption.
In a tweet Djokovic wrote: ‘Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
‘I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022.’
Since he has been granted an exemption, he will not have to enter two weeks of hotel quarantine – like un-vaccinated arrivals must.
Instead, Djokovic will have to follow the same rules as fully-vaccinated travellers – taking a PCR test on arrival and isolating until the result comes through.