Australians have reacted angrily to the news that tennis player Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open, after being exempted from vaccination rules.
All players and tournament staff must be vaccinated or benefit from an exemption granted by a panel of independent experts.
Djokovic did not speak about his vaccination status, but said last year that he was “Opposed to vaccination”. Organizers say he has not received special treatment. However, the Australians criticized the officials and the player.
The controversy comes as the country is first hit by tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases after suffering some of the world’s toughest restrictions.
Over 90% of Australia’s population over 16 is fully vaccinated, but some Australians still cannot travel interstate or globally due to current restrictions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic would be required to show proof upon arrival that he had a true medical exemption from vaccination, or that he would be “ on the next plane back ”.
“If this evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently from the others and he will be on the next plane back.”the Australian Prime Minister told reporters. ” There shouldn’t be any special rules for Novak Djokovic. None at all ”.
Many Australians had previously accused the government of allowing the rich and famous to do whatever they wanted while ordinary people remained separated from their sick and dying loved ones.
The decision also raised eyebrows from other tennis players. “I just think it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say “Australian Alex de Minaur said.
Briton Jamie Murray added: “I think if it was me who wasn’t vaccinated, I wouldn’t get an exemption. You know, but kudos to him for being allowed to come to Australia and compete ”.
Requests for medical exemptions are assessed anonymously by two separate panels, with inflammatory heart disease or another acute condition listed as valid reasons.
But it is also possible that Djokovic recently tested positive for the virus, which would allow him to postpone taking the vaccine.
He did not disclose his vaccine status and said last April : “Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I would not like to be forced by someone to be vaccinated in order to be able to travel”.