Novak Djokovic has reportedly been held up by a visa error after landing in Australia amid a row over his medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination rules.
The tennis world number one, who has repeatedly refused to say whether he has been jabbed against coronavirus, confirmed on Tuesday he had received an exemption to allow him to compete in the Australian Open.
Trouble at the border
But on landing in Melbourne, Victoria, the 20-time grand slam winner was reportedly waiting permission to enter the country after his team had applied for a visa that does not allow for medical exemptions for being unvaccinated.
Djokovic, 34, told he could be on ‘next plane home’ amid anger in Australia over vaccine exemption
Image: Djokovic pictured during a Davis Cup match in Madrid on 3 December. Pic: AP
When Border Force contacted government officials in Victoria to sponsor the visa, they refused to do so.
Australian media reported that Djokovic, who has won nine titles at Melbourne Park including the last three, was quizzed by Border Force officials in a room at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport upon landing.
More on Australian Open
Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford confirmed the state government was not supporting his visa application to compete in the Australian Open.
Update on #AusOpen2022…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 visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.1/2
— Jaala Pulford MP (@JaalaPulford) January 5, 2022
Australian Border Force to decide
Meanwhile, home affairs minister Karen Andrews clarified in a statement that the Border Force would make the final determination.
“While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,” Ms Andrews said.
“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 arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.”
It comes after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier said the tennis champion will be “on the next plane home” if he is unable to provide “acceptable proof” for a COVID vaccination exemption to play at the Australian Open.
“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers,” the leader added.
‘Slap in the face’
Australians have called the decision to give the tennis star a medical exemption to enter the country “a slap in the face” after they endured months of harsh lockdowns.
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! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
Former Australian Rules player Kevin Bartlett tweeted that Australians “have been taken for fools”.
Another former AFL player Corey McKernan tweeted: “People with loved ones who are dying/some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states.
“You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number one you get a pass?”
Sports journalist Andy Maher wrote on Twitter: “Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke – who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus – gets his exemption.
Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke – who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus – gets his exemption. Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential.
— Andy Maher (@AndyMaherDFA) January 4, 2022
“Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential.”
Organisers issued a statement that confirmed Djokovic would be allowed to compete in the tournament, which starts on 17 January.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said: “We completely understand and empathise with … people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in, because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination.
“However, it’s ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption.”
Only 26 people connected with the tournament applied for a medical exemption and, Tiley said, only a “handful” – estimated at about five – were granted.
Djokovic is not obliged to make his exemption public.
Source : Sky News