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News that Novak Djokovic had received a medical waiver to compete in this month’s Australian Open tournament in Melbourne sparked a spate of backlash in Australia, where some politicians and tennis officials called on him to take action. to explain.
Djokovic, the world’s No.1 tennis player and a leading vaccination skeptic, announced Tuesday on social networks that he “was heading for Down Under on an exemption clearance”.
Tournament organizers confirmed he was granted a medical exemption after a review process by two independent panels, a procedure which suggested he had not been vaccinated.
The reaction among the professional tennis elite has been somewhat measured. After Alex de Minaur and James Duckworth, both from Australia, absorbed the news, Duckworth said during a press briefing at the ATP Cup in Sydney: “If he meets the criteria, then yes , he should be able to come. “
“It’s very politically correct of you,” replied De Minaur, laughing. He added, âI just think it’s just really interesting; that’s all I’m going to say.
Other Australians have taken to social media to express their anger over the move. The hashtag #DjokovicOut was all the rage on Twitter on Wednesday. Commentators stressed that spectators at the Australian Open must be vaccinated.
Stephen Parnis, former vice president of the Australian Medical Association, tweeted: âI don’t care how good a tennis player he is. If he refuses to be vaccinated, he should not be allowed in. If this exemption is true, it sends a dreadful message to the millions of people who seek to reduce the risk of # COVID19Aus for themselves and others. #Vaccination shows respect, Novak.
Another one Twitter user Called it “a slap in the face for millions of Australians”.
Britain’s Jamie Murray said on Tuesday after his ATP Cup doubles match: âI think if it was me who wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t get a exemption. But kudos to him for being allowed to come to Australia and compete.
Djokovic has long held nontraditional views on science and medicine – he once claimed that prayer and belief can purify toxic water – and he has had a complicated relationship with the pandemic. He also said that vaccination is a private and personal decision that should not be compulsory. When the Australian Open announced that vaccines would be needed to enter the country, Djokovic’s father called the warrant “blackmail.”
Jacinta Allan, acting prime minister of the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open will be held, asked Djokovic to explain the reasons for his participation in the tournament.
“The government expects when he arrives to explain to the Victorian community what the circumstances are, and then to be able to explain some of those motives behind his actions and intentions to play here in Australia,” he said. she said Wednesday at a press conference. .
Craig Tiley, the head of Tennis Australia, which hosts the tournament, admitted that some people “will be upset that Novak has come because of his statements from the past two years regarding vaccination,” but said Djokovic had not received any special favors.
The question was whether the tennis player could even enter the country for the tournament. The federal government says that if international travelers cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, they “will have to provide proof” to airline staff.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed this at a press conference on Wednesday, saying if Djokovic arrives in Australia he would have to provide “acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated”.
“If that evidence is insufficient,” said Morrison, “he will not be treated any differently from the rest and he will be on the next plane home.”