Djokovic Reveals He Was Given Exemption To Enter Australia Because Of Recent Covid Infection

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jan 08, 2022 - 04:58 PM

The scandal over Australia's botched response to No-vax Djokovic is getting worse by the day.

After being stuck in immigration limbo for half a week, the world's tennis number one Novak Djokovic said in a legal challenge on Saturday to being refused entry to Australia that he had been given medical exemption from vaccination against COVID-19 because he had contracted the illness last month.

In a court filing ahead of a hearing on Monday over his visa cancellation Djokovic said he had received the exemption from scandal-plagued tournament organizer, Tennis Australia, with a follow-up letter from the Department of Home Affairs saying he was allowed into the country. By revealing his recently infected status, Djokovic is effectively pushing the debate of natural immunity, which has been extensively maligned by the authorities, vs vaccinations (and their numerous adverse side-effects) to the forefront.

“Mr. Djokovic understood that he was entitled to enter Australia and Victoria and to compete in the Australian Tennis Open,” the lawyers wrote. The 35-page filing was released on Saturday.

The Serbian player, hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open later this month, is on his third day in immigration detention in Melbourne - a case that has caused a sporting, political and diplomatic furore.

A vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, Djokovic has been confined since Thursday in a modest hotel after his visa was cancelled due to problems with the medical exemption from the country's immigration requirement for coronavirus vaccination that he presented. The drama has caused tensions between Serbia and Australia and has also become a flashpoint for opponents of vaccine mandates around the world.

"I explained that I had been recently infected with COVID in December 2021 and on this basis I was entitled to a medical exemption in accordance with Australian Government rules and guidance," Djokovic said in the filing about his experience being detained at Melbourne Airport.

Djokovic said he told Australian Border Force officers that "I had correctly made my Australian Travel Declaration and otherwise satisfied all necessary requirements in order to lawfully enter Australia on my visa".

Djokovic had his first positive COVID-19 test on Dec. 16 but by Dec. 30 "had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours", the filing said.

On Jan. 1, it said, he received a document from Home Affairs telling him his responses indicated that he met "the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia".

The federal court has ordered Home Affairs of Australia which has the most draconian and ruthless lockdown measures of any country, to file its response by Sunday. The Border Force, a unit of Home Affairs, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Saturday.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Friday that Djokovic “is not being held captive” and is “free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that.”

Djokovic said he was personally opposed to vaccines in 2020, but later clarified that he was no expert and would make the decision that’s right for him. Djokovic hasn’t previously disclosed his vaccination status.

“I wouldn’t want to be forced to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” Djokovic said in 2020, months before the first coronavirus vaccines were available.

He’s known to have tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020, shortly after staging a tennis competition in Belgrade while most of pro sports was still locked down. At least three other players contracted coronavirus after the event. On Friday, Djokovic thanked his supporters via an Instagram post. He’ll remain in detention following a court decision to adjourn his appeal to a visa cancellation. The proceedings will resume Monday.

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 17.

Many countries allow a recent COVID infection as a reason for an exemption from vaccine requirements. But Australia's federal government released a letter soon after Djokovic arrived showing that it had notified Tennis Australia that was not necessarily the case in the country.

Meanwhile, the federal and Victorian state governments and Tennis Australia have denied responsibility for the dispute which threatens to make a mockery out of Australia's ridiculous lockdown regime which, incidentally isn't working at all.

Djokovic's court filing confirmed a media report that he had asked to be moved to lodgings with access to a tennis court but that his request was denied. He is being held at Melbourne’s Park Hotel, notorious for its poor conditions including reports of maggots in the food served. It is also home to dozens of asylum seekers trying to enter the country. A special request for Djokovic to have access to a personal chef and a tennis court were denied, The Australian newspaper reported.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told Serbian media that the government had managed to get Djokovic a laptop, SIM card and exercise equipment, as well as a delivery of gluten-free food to cater to his restricted diet. 

"He's staying in Park Hotel until the final decision is made," Brnabic told Serbian media. "We've managed to make sure gluten-free food is delivered to him, as well as exercising tools, a laptop and a sim card so that he is able to be in contact with his family."

"It's a positive tone from the Australian side. The Serbian government is ready to provide all the guarantees necessary for Novak to be allowed to enter Australia, the Serbian president (Aleksandar Vucic) is also involved," Brnabic said.

Of course, any concession from Australia now that everyone in the world is closely watching this ridiculous scandal, would be concession that it's approach has been flawed.

The player's family has been vocal in its support in recent days and his father, Srdjan Djokovic, said on Saturday he was "disgusted" at his son's treatment in Australia.

"He feels the love, he is a mental rock. If the court decides that he must leave Australia, he will leave. If it decides that he can stay, he will stay. But politicians will not decide the fate of the world's best athlete of all times," he told a rally in front of parliament in Belgrade on Saturday, attended by a scattering of people.

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Djokovic's filing said he had expressed "shock, "surprise" and "confusion" when he was held overnight, and had a bed prepared near his airport interview room so he could rest while waiting until the morning when he would be able to reach legal representatives and Tennis Australia, the filing says. Customs officers ultimately "pressured" Djokovic to undertake an interview before he had spoken to either, the filing said.

Meanwhile, it appears that the real culprit for the scandal is lack of communication between Australia's various authorities where everyone is now scrambling to maximize their power by piggybacking on covid. Case in point, Tennis Australia said it never knowingly misled players and had always urged players to be vaccinated, even after News Corp papers published a document from the organizing body apparently advising players on ways to enter the country with a medical exemption from vaccination.

"We have always been consistent in our communications to players that vaccination is the best course of action - not just as the right thing to do to protect themselves and others, but also as the best course of action to ensure they could arrive in Australia," Tennis Australia said in a statement quoted by local media. "We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled."

And yet, that's precisely what happened, and so the Tennis organization is passing the buck on to the government. To wit, Tennis Australia's advice was based on the contents of a federal government website to which it had been referred by the federal health minister, the statement added.

Meanwhile Czech player Renata Voracova, who was also detained in the same detention hotel as Djokovic and had her visa revoked after issues with her exemption, was seen by reporters leaving the hotel in a van on Saturday evening.

Her destination was not immediately clear, but she told Czech media earlier that she was still waiting to leave the country after deciding not to appeal the decision.