News that Serbian tennis player, Novak Djokovic was exempted from vaccination rules to participate in the Australian Open, has been met with angry reactions. Australians have criticized tournament officials, politicians and Djokovic for the decision.
No Special Treatment
Tournament rules state that all players and staff must be vaccinated or have proof of an exemption from an expert, independent panel.
According to Australian Open chief Craig Tiley, a handful of players granted medical exemptions out of the 26 who applied. But organizers say Djokovic, the defending champion, has not been given preferential treatment. Tiley told Channel 9 on Wednesday:
We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Serbian player ‘will be sent home’ if he fails to present evidence upon arrival.
He added that even if the player was granted a medical exemption by overseas medics, it would be checked to ensure it meets Australia’s standards.
Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday:
There should be no special tools for Novak Djokovic… he will be treated no different to anyone else.
Ahead of the tournament, slated to begin in Melbourne on January 17, Djokovic wrote on Instagram:
I've spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I'm heading down under with an exemption permission.
Although he’s not publicly declared his vaccination status, the Serbian tennis pro is on record to have said:
Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
The controversy is fuelled by anger among Australians over claims the government is handing out exemptions to the rich and famous while imposing strict restrictions on ordinary citizens.
A&E doctor Stephen Parnis tweeted on Tuesday:
I don't care how good a tennis player he is. If he's refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn't be allowed in. If this exemption is true, it sends an appalling message to millions seeking to reduce #COVID19Aus risk to themselves & others. #Vaccination shows respect, Novak.