Thursday, January 20, 2022

Australian Open 2022: Novak Djokovic denied entry into country amid backlash over COVID-19 vaccine exemption

Novak Djokovic has reportedly been denied entry into Australia ahead of the Australian Open. This comes after the tennis star was granted a medical exemption from tournament organizers to compete in the event, even though he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel in order to take part in the event.

Djokovic receiving an exemption has caused outrage throughout the country, and the situation came to a head on Wednesday.

According to The Times of London, Djokovic was stopped at border control due to a visa issue. A member of Djokovic’s team reportedly requested a type of visa that doesn’t apply to someone that has been granted a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccinations.

The report also states that the federal government has asked for help in correcting the visa issue, but the state government has refused to step in.

“The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” Victorian sports minister Jaala Pulford wrote on Twitter. “We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open grand slam. We’ve always been clear on two points: Visa approvals are a matter for the federal government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”

It’s unclear at the moment what Djokovic can do from here in order to attempt to gain entry into Australia.

According to Australian Open organizers, tennis star Novak Djokovic didn’t benefit from any “special favor” after receiving a medical exemption in order to participate in the Grand Slam tournament. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley stated that 26 unvaccinated players applied for the medical exemption and that only a “handful” were granted.

“We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently,” Tiley said. “There has been no special favor or special opportunity granted to Novak Djokovic or any tennis player. There’s been a process that goes above and beyond the normal process for everyone.”

Tiley also revealed that the reasoning for Djokovic receiving the exemption will remain private because “the personal information of any applicant is redacted to ensure the independence of the process.”

Earlier in January, the Victorian government released a statement regarding the tournament’s exemption policy and said that it has a “two-stage independent process” in order to verify if any player has “a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption.” Clearly, they decided that Djokovic does.

Djokovic is taking aim at his 21st Grand Slam title and is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles in men’s history. Nadal will be participating in the Australian Open after recently testing positive for COVID-19. Federer won’t be taking part in the event as he is recovering from knee surgery.

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