Novak Djokovic: Australian Open vaccine exemption ignites backlash
Australians have reacted angrily to news that tennis player Novak Djokovic will play in the Australian Open, after being exempted from vaccination rules.
All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel.
Djokovic has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year said he was “opposed to vaccination”.
Organisers say he has not been given special treatment. But Australians have criticised officials and the player.
The controversy comes as the country is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world’s strictest restrictions.
Over 90% of Australia’s over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some Australians still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current restrictions.
Amid the row, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic would be required to present evidence upon arrival that he has a genuine medical exemption from vaccination, or he would be “on the next plane home”.
“If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home,” the prime minister told reporters. “There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”
Many Australians had previously accused the government of allowing the rich and famous to do as they please while ordinary people remained separated from sick and dying loved ones.