Novak Djokovic and other tennis stars will not be awarded special exemptions to enter Australia if they are unvaccinated or refuse to reveal their vaccination status, according to the federal immigration minister.
Victoria’s sports minister recently insisted players may not be allowed to play at the Melbourne Grand Slam if they are not vaccinated – but they could be awarded an exemption to allow them to play.
The state government then introduced a vaccine mandate for authorised workers including professional sportspeople and while Tennis Australia are yet to confirm their rules regarding unvaccinated player travel, Alex Hawke reiterated that anyone entering Australia must be double vaccinated.
“The government in establishing its borders has said that you will need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia, that’s a universal application, not just for tennis players,” Hawke insisted.
“Our health advice is that when we open the borders everyone that comes to Australia will need to be double vaccinated.
“I don’t have a message for [Djokovic], I have a message to everybody who wishes to visit Australia – you will need to be double vaccinated.”
Hawke, who said there is no workaround for the Australian Open as yet, was joined by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews in casting doubt over whether players like Djokovic can enter the country.
“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country and if they did get a visa they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks,” Andrews said.
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“I don’t think that the person you indicated [Djokovic] or any other tennis player, let’s not personalise it … or golfer or Formula One driver will even get a visa to get here. If I’m wrong I’m sure the federal government will let you know.
“[The virus] doesn’t care what your tennis ranking is, or how many Grand Slams you’ve won. It’s completely irrelevant. You need to be vaccinated to keep yourself safe and to keep others safe.”
Victoria introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes without clarifying whether it would cover those coming from abroad or other Australian states.
Andrews implied the mandate did indeed cover international athletes and said there should not be special arrangements for athletes coming to compete at high-profile events.
“On the question of vaccination, no,” he said. “Professional sport is part of those [items on the] authorised worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated.
“This is here for a while… We’re not going to be essentially encouraging people to not get vaccinated because they reckon they can wait a few months or a few weeks. You can’t wait out coronavirus.”
Australia's borders have been shut to non-residents through the pandemic, although authorities have awarded visas to athletes and sports staff for major events, including the last Australian Open in February.
Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, has been locked down since August as authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
Restrictions for the city's five million people will be eased from Friday when 70% of the adult population in Victoria is expected to be fully vaccinated. Unfortunately for Djokovic, unvaccinated people will remain barred from sports events along with restaurants, pubs and other parts of the economy.
Reports emerged that approximately 50 per cent of ATP and WTA tour players had been fully vaccinated prior to the US Open in August.
Djokovic, the world number one, declined to reveal his vaccination status this week and admitted he was unsure if he would defend his title at Melbourne Park.
“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” the 20-time Grand Slam winner told Blic. “I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.
“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say, ‘yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’, they will take advantage.”
Players were required to undertake two weeks quarantine at the 2021 Australian Open, but have been able to undertake international travel relatively freely throughout the year.
The 2022 Australian Open will take place between January 17-30.
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