HomeSportsTennis'Anti-vaxxer' Djokovic given medical exemption to join Australian Open, faces backlash

‘Anti-vaxxer’ Djokovic given medical exemption to join Australian Open, faces backlash

There is massive outrage coming as a result of the surprising decision to give tennis star Novak Djokovic a special medical exemption which allows him to enter Australia despite not complying with Covid-19 vaccination requirements. The Serbian player will therefore be able to defend his title at the Australian Open in Melbourne later this month without showing proof of vaccination nor undergoing quarantine.

Many have been outraged and are calling the decision “appalling,” especially after citizens of the State of Victoria have been subjected to several rounds of lockdowns throughout the pandemic. Numerous Australians were also unable to travel back into the country to reunite with their families for months on end due to travel restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now been going on for two years.

After months of speculation, Djokovic took to social media to share the “good” news to his fans. On Tuesday, he shared a photo of himself posing with his bags at an airport, saying that he was finally heading Down Under thanks to his “exemption permission.”

It has been no secret that he had been seeking an exemption, and Australian Open organisers were naturally keen on letting him play even as they deny that he is being given special treatment. All Australian Open participants are required to be fully vaccinated, and while Djokovic has refused to reveal his vaccination status, he needed an exemption hence making it clear that he has skipped the jab.

Tennis Australia and the Victorian government made the assessment and granted permission, but they have refused to reveal why Djokovic has been deemed eligible for the exemption.

Incidentally, the move calls into question an earlier statement by prime minister Scott Morrison, who said that “if he is not vaccinated he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and will be on the next plane home – there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic.”

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley defended the decision, saying that tennis players seeking exemption went through a fair and gruelling process before permission was granted. “For tennis players, it was a process that was above and beyond what anyone coming to Australia would have experienced. Simply because we had an extra panel … which through a blind review assessed any application and then granted exemptions if it was appropriate,” he said.

He then said that it will be up to Djokovic if he wants to reveal the medical condition which had paved the way for his exemption from the vaccination requirement. Social media has since exploded with negative reactions, with many calling the decision a “kick in the gut” for Victorians.

Others have expressed their frustration and disappointment as well, with a very hostile crowd expected to be in the stands when Djokovic finally takes to court when the tournament begins in about two weeks.

Former Australian Medical Association vice-president Stephen Parnis said, “I don’t care how good a tennis player he is. If he’s refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn’t be allowed in.”

“What a disgrace! We have had 6 lockdowns – schools and small businesses closed, funerals and weddings told not to go ahead, families separated for months on end and now a tennis star gets an exemption,” tweeted deputy Victorian Liberal leader David Southwick.

Novak Djokovic in on the entry list for the Australian Open Photo: AFP / SAEED KHAN

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