Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, has not publicly revealed his vaccination status – but at a press conference on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had “no valid medical exemption” from the vaccination requirement. for all entrants.
“Entry on a visa requires a double vaccination or a medical exemption,” Morrison said. “I was informed that this exemption did not apply and, as a result, is subject to the same rules as everyone else.”
“There are many visas granted, if you have a visa and have been vaccinated twice, you are very welcome to come here,” he added. “But if you haven’t been vaccinated twice and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come.”
On Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was up to Djokovic whether he wanted to appeal the decision – “but if the visa is revoked, someone will have to leave the country.”
Djokovic’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision to deport him from Australia, and an appeal hearing is scheduled for Thursday evening, according to CNN affiliate Nine News – however, his request to appeal the decision to the court has not yet been submitted.
CNN has reached out to lawyers believed to represent Djokovic, the presiding judge and his attorney, but there has been no response yet.
Djokovic had previously voiced his opposition to compulsory Covid-19 vaccines, saying he personally “opposed vaccination” during a Facebook Live chat. He contracted the virus in June 2020, but since then there have been no reports of him being infected again.
The controversy comes as Australia faces a growing outbreak, after it reported a record high number of daily new cases for several days in a row.
Tournament organizers said earlier that the Serbian player, who is trying to break the record for the most men’s Grand Slam titles, had been given a medical exemption from participating in the prestigious tennis tournament.
The exemption was met with controversy when Djokovic traveled to Melbourne on Wednesday.
According to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Border Force (ABF) contacted the Victorian state government after learning of a visa issue presented by Djokovic’s team as they headed into the country.
The Asian Football Confederation confirmed in a statement that the 34-year-old player’s visa had been revoked for failing to provide proper evidence to enter the country.
“The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who reach our borders comply with our laws and entry requirements,” the statement said.
Players were told that they would need to be fully vaccinated in order to participate or receive medical exemption by an independent panel of experts.
The vaccine exemption sparked a backlash in Australia.
As events unfolded, Djokovic’s father, Sergean Djokovic, told a Serbian radio station that his son was being held by Australian officials after mixing up a visa application.
He told Serbian radio station B92 that his son was staying in a room that no one could enter, and two policemen were at the front of the room.
“I have no idea what is going on. They are holding my son for five hours,” Srdjan Djokovic told Russia’s Sputnik news agency, according to B92. “This is a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world! If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we’ll meet on the street. This is a fight for everyone.”
Since those comments were made, there have been no reports of any gatherings in Belgrade or outside Melbourne Airport.
Earlier on Wednesday, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic posted a photo on social media of what appeared to be Melbourne Airport in Australia where Djokovic was reportedly being held, captioning it, “Not the most typical flight down.”
The Australian Open is scheduled to run from January 17-30.
Organizers say two hearings have reviewed the waiver request
The Australian Open organizers said in a statement on Tuesday that Djokovic’s exemption “was granted after a rigorous review process involving two independent teams of medical experts”.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley defended the impartiality of the medical exemption review process, telling reporters, “Nobody knows who the applicant is.”
Calls to boycott
Across Melbourne, one of the world’s most closed cities in 2021, tennis fans have taken to social media to spread calls for a “boycott” of the Australian Open.
Department of Health figures showed that New South Wales, the most populous state, and Victoria – home to Melbourne – set record daily numbers of cases on Saturday.
Under current Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) guidelines, medical exemption is granted to individuals with a “serious critical medical condition (such as undergoing major surgery or hospitalization for a critical illness”.
Other remaining grounds for medical exemption pertain to persons who have experienced a “serious adverse event attributable to a previous dose of Covid-19 vaccine, without specifying another cause” and recipients “presenting a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process,” due to a “developmental disorder or disorder in mental health.”
Finally, exceptions can be made for anyone with “PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, in which vaccination can be delayed up to six months,” and in cases where individuals have received “anti-SARS-monoclonal antibodies.” CoV-2 or convalescent plasma therapy”.
“It is ultimately up to him to discuss his condition with the public if he chooses to do so and why he was granted the exemption,” Tilley said.
CNN’s Ben Church, Alex Klusuk, Hannah Ritchie, and Helen Reagan contributed reporting. Additional reporting from Reuters.