Tennis Australia along with the Victorian state government clarified on Wednesday that World No. 1 Novak Djokovic did not get any special treatment in getting an exemption from Covid-19 vaccination requirements to play the Australian Open this month.
Novak Djokovic took to social media on Tuesday to confirm he would be participating in the Australian Open, starting January 17, saying he received a vaccine exemption. Australian Open organisers later said the 9-time champion was one of a “handful” of successful applicants among 26 people who sought exemptions.
The decision to grant Djokovic a vaccine exception, who had refused to reveal his vaccine status leading to doubts over his participation in the Australian Open which had made vaccine certificates mandatory, led to sharp criticism from the tennis fraternity and the public.
More than 90 percent of the Australian public above age 16 are doubly vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Reuters news agency. Melbourne had the world’s longest cumulative lockdown to contain Covid, and an outbreak of the Omicron variant has sent case numbers to record levels.
“I think lots of people in the Victorian community will find this to be a disappointing outcome,” acting Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford said.
“But the process is the process; nobody has had special treatment. The process is incredibly robust. It’s de-identified and we are where we are, and so the tennis can begin.”
2-STAGE APPLICATION PROCESS CONFIDENTIAL: TENNIS AUSTRALIA
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said the two-stage application process was confidential and run by independent experts. All applications were assessed to ensure any exemptions met conditions set out by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
Tiley said those reasons included previous adverse response to vaccines, recent major surgery or myocarditis or certified evidence of a Covid infection in the previous six months.
“We completely understand and empathise with … people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination,” Tiley told reporters.
“However it is ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption.”