Tennis World Number One and 20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic announced on Thursday, January 6th that he would be participating in the upcoming Australian Open after receiving a ‘medical exemption’ to enter Australia, for not revealing his vaccination status.
Granted with this medical exemption to play in the tournament, Djokovic has enraged many Australians who have been living under some of the strictest Covid restrictions.
In an unexpected turn of events, Djokovic was denied entry to Australia after landing in Melbourne last week to defend his 1Oth Australian Open title. This step by Australia sent shock waves across the tennis fraternity and fans all over the world evoked mixed responses. Djokovic was detained in a poorly-managed immigration detention centre and his visa was revoked as he failed to obtain the right visa for the medical immunity that he was granted.
What worries vaccinated players is Djokovic’s claim of a positive Covid test on December 16, 2021. There have been pictures of him shared by the Belgrade Tennis Federation at a players’ event in Serbia on December 17, 2021.
Based on such reports, and a highly publicised miscommunication Djokovic was held at the Melbourne airport on Thursday and was supposed to be ‘removed’ from the country overnight. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood firm on revoking the tennis star’s visa, saying: “Rules are rules”. Morrison explained that if verifications of Djokovic’s exemption were “insufficient” then the world number one would be remorselessly sent back “on the next plane home”.
The Serbian star, who is cynical about the Covid vaccine is currently held in a former Park Hotel, a five-storey facility that holds about 32 migrants trapped in Australia’s strict immigration system.
On Saturday, Djokovic’s legal aides submitted a 35-page document arguing that the tennis stars fulfilled the criteria for vaccine relaxation because of a recent Covid infection, which was verified by a PCR test on 16 December.
Australia bans foreigners from arriving in the country if they have not been double vaxed or have not been jabbed due to medical conditions. A pot-shot by the Australian government to delay Novak Djokovic’s appeal against expatriation has been rejected by a judge overseeing his case today.
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The government had requested the tennis star’s court hearing to be held up until Wednesday, and delay his appeal against deportation. But the judge overseeing his case, today rejected this move, and a court order by Judge Anthony Kelly detailed that the request to prolong the hearing until Wednesday (12 January) had been “refused without prejudice” and that legal suppositions must be presented to the court of law at 10:00 local time on Monday (23:00 GMT Sunday). Judge Kelly examining Djokovic’s case had directed his attorneys on Thursday that justice would be delivered without haste; and that the tail won’t be wagging the dog here.