Vax Row double fault, visa confusion that puts Djokovic’s open presence under a cloud

Vaccine exemption and visa issues held Novak Djokovic at Melbourne airport where he arrived in pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. The Australian Open victory – which Djokovic has won nine times before – would cement his place at the top of men’s tennis, but the topic of discussion ahead of the tournament which kicks off on January 17 now revolves around the controversy that took place. the Australian Prime Minister and the Serbian President intervene. Here is what you need to know.

Why did Djokovic ask for a vaccine exemption?

While he had remained discreet about his vaccination status, before traveling to Australia, Djokovic revealed that he had received an exemption from the authorities to participate in the Australian Open. He had said earlier that he was unsure of showing up at the Melbourne event given the Down Under quarantine rules.

“I had some fantastic quality time with my loved ones during the break and today I’m heading to Down Under on an exemption clearance. Let’s go 2022, “the Serbian said on Instagram on Jan.4.

According to reports, the organizers of the Australian Open, Tennis Australia (TA), had demanded that all players be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or have obtained a medical exemption from a panel of independent experts made up of experts in the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and general practice. The mechanism for the exemption process was reportedly worked out through consultations with the Australian state health department of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital.

TA said Djokovic sought and obtained a medical exemption from the vaccination after a “rigorous review process” involving two groups of independent medical experts. A BBC report stressed that it was not clear, however, on what grounds were on which Djokovic had requested the immunization exemption.

Was the exemption a one-off case?

Organizers of the Australian Open have said they have reached an agreement whereby participants in the event could apply for an exemption from the mandatory vaccination rule provided they can show valid reasons.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said 26 of the estimated 3,000 players and support staff traveling to Australia for the event had requested a vaccine exemption and only a handful of them had received it. He said no special favors were given to Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 in men’s singles, and that the screening process for exemption requests did not involve experts knowing the identity of the candidates.

Organizers have “taken care of personal information to ensure the confidentiality of all applicants” in the process of selecting exemptions, TA said, adding that details of names, ages and nationalities had been removed. Tiley stressed that “fair and independent protocols” were being followed and that Djokovic went through the “very legitimate request and process.”

Tiley said that while Djokovic, the reigning men’s singles champion this year, had received “no special favors,” he was asked to reveal to the public the reasons he got the exemption to allay the anger and speculation about special treatment.

Reports indicated that one of the conditions under which the requirement for mandatory vaccinations could be waived was if the participant had had Covid-19 in the past six months. While it has not been revealed if this is the case with Djokovic, he has in the past spoken of his reluctance to get stung. “Personally, I am not pro-vaccines. I wouldn’t want someone forcing me to get vaccinated so I could travel, ”he said.

If he got an exemption, why was he held up at the airport?

Reports said Djokovic and his team were arrested at the airport after discovering that they had been granted a visa that did not allow medical exemptions. This led to border officials contacting the government in Victoria to ask if they would allow Djokovic entry into the state. Visas and international entry are the responsibility of the federal government in Australia.

“The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual assistance with visa applications to compete in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam, ”Victoria Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford said, adding that they have “Always been clear on two points: visa approvals are the responsibility of the federal government, and medical exemptions are the responsibility of doctors.”

This puts the fate of Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open in the hands of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has faced backlash over the issue of the vaccine exemption. Victoria was said to have faced the “world’s longest cumulative lockdown” and was hit with a record spike in cases amid the rise of the Omicron variant.

Following criticism of Djokovic’s exemption from other players and former players and citizens, Morrison had hinted that the waiver may not be final and that Djokovic would have to meet entry requirements. mandated by the federal government, which was not part of the exemption process.

“If that evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently from the rest and he will be on the next plane home,” Morrison told media.

However, as Djokovic was held in a facility near the airport – it was not immediately clear whether he would leave Australia or take legal action against the bar upon his entry – a diplomatic situation was unfolding between Canberra. and Belgrade with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. .

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