News ID: 319233
Published: 1033 GMT January 08, 2022

COVID infection gave Djokovic Australia’s vaccine exemption, lawyers say

COVID infection gave Djokovic Australia’s vaccine exemption, lawyers say
ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/NYT

Tennis star Novak Djokovic had a vaccine exemption to enter Australia due to a recent COVID infection, his lawyers say in court documents.

"The date of the first positive COVID PCR test was recorded on 16 December 2021," they said, according to BBC Sport.

Djokovic was denied entry to Australia after landing in Melbourne this week to play in the Australian Open.

He is currently in immigration detention with a court challenge due on Monday.

The case involving the world's top ranked tennis player has caused a huge outcry in Australia and made waves around the world.

Djokovic, who has said he is opposed to vaccination, had been granted a medical exemption to play in the tournament in a decision that infuriated many ordinary Australians.

But the Serbian was dramatically denied entry on landing. On Wednesday, Australian Border Force (ABF) officials said the 34-year-old player had "failed to provide appropriate evidence" at Melbourne Airport.

In court documents released on Saturday, Djokovic's lawyers said that 14 days after testing positive in December, the player "had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours".

There had been no prior announcement of his infection.

 

‘Unbelievable job’

 

The boss of Tennis Australia has privately told his staff the organisation has done “an unbelievable job” in handling the Djokovic affair despite refusing to explain to the public why players were told a prior COVID-19 infection would exempt them from vaccine travel requirements.

 

The scandal surrounding Djokovic deepened on Saturday, following revelations that Tennis Australia informed players that a prior infection would be a reason to exempt them from Australia’s tough border restrictions. That advice was given despite the health department telling Tennis Australia on two occasions that exemptions did not exist for those recently infected with COVID, the Guardian reported.

The organisation has largely gone to ground, not answering media queries or responding to calls or emails. But a leaked video of Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley addressing his staff has been obtained and published by News Corp, in which he tells staff the organisation has performed well.

“We’ve chosen at this point not to be very public with it and simply because there is a pending lawsuit related to entry into Australia. Once that has run its course, we’ll be able to share more with you,” he said.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could according to all the instructions that they have been provided.”

Tennis Australia has maintained a deliberate silence on the affair, save for a statement issued on Friday night denying that it “misled” anyone by providing such advice.

“We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled,” Tennis Australia said. “Informing players they could get into the country on a medical exemption was taken from the Smart Traveller website that Greg Hunt directly referred us to.”

Further details have also emerged about Tiley’s interactions with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) about exemptions for players either recently infected with COVID or who had only received one dose. The Age reported that Tiley had told ATAGI the treatment of such players “goes to the heart of the viability of the Australian Open”.

 

   
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