Melbourne: Novak Djokovic’s lawyers filed court documents on Saturday in his appeal against deportation from Australia, showing that the tennis star tested positive for COVID-19 last month and recovered, grounds he used when applying for a medical exemption from the strict vaccination rules of Novak Djokovic. the country.
#1-ranked Djokovic was barred from Melbourne airport late Wednesday after border officials canceled his visa for failing to meet the entry requirement that all non-citizens must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic was granted a medical exemption on January 1, backed by the state government of Victoria and the organizers of the Australian Open, based on information he provided to two independent medical panels, and was electronically approved for a visa.
But it has since emerged that the state of Victoria’s medical exemption, allowed for people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the past six months, was deemed invalid by federal border authorities.
Djokovic has been locked up in an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, where he prepares to face the Federal Circuit Court’s legal challenge against his visa cancellation on Monday.
The Australian Open starts on January 17. Djokovic is the defending champion and has won the Australian Open men’s singles title nine times. He has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the Australian Associated Press reported details of the documents late Saturday. It emerged that on December 30 last year, Djokovic received a letter from the medical director of Tennis Australia “stating that he had been granted a ‘medical exemption from COVID vaccination’ on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID.”
The waiver statement said the date of the 34-year-old Serb’s first positive test was December 16, 2021, “and that he had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours.”
Djokovic attended an event in Belgrade on December 17 to honor young tennis players. The event was followed by local media and parents posted photos on social media showing Djokovic and the children without masks. It is not clear whether Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.
On December 14, Djokovic had attended a Euroleague basketball match between Red Star and Barcelona in a crowded sports hall in Belgrade. He was photographed hugging several players from both teams, including some who tested positive shortly afterwards.
According to the court, Djokovic received confirmation from the Australian Department of the Interior on Saturday, saying that his travel statement had been reviewed and that his answers showed that he met the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival in Australia.
So, who’s to blame? Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said rules are rules and incoming passengers are responsible for adhering to border rules.
Tennis Australia and the government of the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is played, blamed confusion over the precise definitions of grounds for medical exemptions.
Tennis Australia, which runs the tournament and organizes the logistics for more than 2,000 incoming players, staff and officials, has allegedly misinterpreted the acceptable grounds for an exemption to players. That included the interpretation that a coronavirus infection within the past six months would qualify.
The federal government disagreed.
The state government of Victoria has determined that all players, staff, fans and officials must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in the tournament.
The state, which approved the medical waivers for Djokovic, said those waivers were for entry to Melbourne Park, not the border.
The organizers of the Australian Open have not commented since Wednesday, except to tell Australian newspapers that no players have been misled about the vaccination requirements.
Tournament director Craig Tiley has continued to work in the background with Djokovic.
Tiley’s video message to Australian Open staff about the tournament’s “difficult time in the public arena” was published Saturday in the News Corp. papers.
“There has been a circumstance involving a few players, in particular Novak . . . in a situation that is very difficult,” Tiley said in the video. “We are a player-first event. We are working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, who are in this situation.”
Djokovic, 34, was one of two players trapped in a Melbourne hotel that also houses refugees and asylum seekers. A third person, reportedly a government official, has voluntarily left the country after investigations by border forces.
The other player was 38-year-old doubles player Renata Vor cov, who had been in Australia for a week for an investigation by border officials. She told media from the Czech Republic that she was locked in a room and that there was a guard in the hallway.
Djokovic reached out to the world for the first time in three days on Friday night by posting on social media to mark the Orthodox Christmas and thank his supporters. There have been large-scale demonstrations in Belgrade and small groups of supporters have gathered daily outside his detention hotel.
“Thank you to the people around the world for your continued support,” Djokovic posted on Instagram. “I feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”
Djokovic, after months of speculation that he would miss the tournament due to his stance on vaccination, announced via social media on Tuesday that he had been given a medical exemption to play in the tournament.
Prime Minister Morrison said this may have caught the attention of border officials.
Tiley told Australian Open staff in his video that he was unable to speak publicly due to the pending legal issue, but defended his organization.
“There is a lot of finger pointing and a lot of blame,” he said in the video, “but I can assure you that our team did an incredible job and did everything they could according to all the instructions they were provided.” .”
If he fails to reverse his visa cancellation and is deported, Djokovic could be banned from the country for up to three years.
In a response emailed to The Associated Press about what could happen if Djokovic loses his legal battle, the Australian Border Force said: “Any person whose visa has been canceled may be subject to a three-year ineligibility period which will extend the grant of a further temporary visa.”
“The exclusion period will be considered part of any new visa application and may be waived in certain circumstances, noting that each case will be assessed on its own merits.”
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