Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Held in Guarded Room in Australia After Reported Visa Mix-Up
Djokovic announced Tuesday that he had received a medical exemption to COVID vaccine requirements that would allow him to play in the upcoming Australian Open. © Juan Naharro/Getty Images for Lexus Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand against Marin Cilic of Croatia during the Davis Cup Semi Final match between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena pavilion Monday in Madrid, Spain. Djokovic is reportedly being held in a room without being allowed to leave while an issue with his visa and a COVID vaccine medical exemption is figured out.
Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open as he had recently recovered from Covid-19, court documents published on Saturday by Australia's Federal Circuit show. © Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand to Marin Cilic of Croatia during the Davis Cup semi final between Serbia and Croatia at Madrid Arena on December 03, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
The development comes as the tennis World No. 1 is confined to a hotel in Melbourne as he mounts a legal challenge to the revocation of his visa ahead of the tournament.
Explainer: Why Novak Djokovic was not let into Australia
Top-ranked men’s tennis player had visa cancelled after arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open.He might not get the chance to pursue that mark at the Australian Open when play begins in Melbourne on January 17.
"Mr Djokovic had received, on 30 December 2021, a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording that he had been provided with a 'Medical exemption from COVID vaccination' on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID," the document said.
Djokovic's first Covid-positive PCR test was recorded on December 16, 2021, and after not showing signs of a fever or "respiratory symptoms" he applied for a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open, according to the document.
The Serb player -- who has previously criticized Covid-19 vaccine mandates -- was granted a medical exemption to compete in the tournament unvaccinated "on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID," his lawyers said in a court submission Saturday.
Djokovic's detention becomes political issue in Australia
SYDNEY (AP) — On a tennis court, Novak Djokovic’s timing is perfect. But when he arrived in Australia to play the first Grand Slam of the year holding documents allowing him to enter the country without a COVID-19 vaccine, his timing hardly could have been worse. When Djokovic landed in Melbourne on Wednesday he found himself in a city beset by surging virus cases. Border officials rejected Djokovic’s documentation, cancelled his visa and ordered him out of the country in a move that many Australians cheered. The tennis star's outspoken opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine struck a wrong note in a city where 92% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
The documents, which have been submitted to the court ahead of Djokovic's hearing Monday, confirmed the player was unvaccinated when he arrived in Australia on January 5.
After being questioned by the Australian Border Force, the submission states that Djokovic's exemption was determined to be invalid under Australia's BioSecurity Act, because his "previous infection with COVID-19 is not considered a medical contraindication for Covid-19 vaccination in Australia."
A "medical contraindication" is granted in specific situations where a drug, procedure, vaccine, or surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to a person's health.
Djokovic's visa was then canceled on January 6 at 4:11 am local time, under Section 116(1)(e) of the Migration Act, which "allows for the cancellation of a visa where the holder poses a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community, or to an individual within the Australian community."
Australia PM Says 'No One is Above' Rules Amid Novak Djokovic's Detainment Over COVID Jab
The tennis star's detainment comes as Melbourne, where the Australian Open is held, is experiencing a massive surge in COVID cases.Djokovic, who has denied confirming whether or not he has received the COVID-19 vaccine, was detained by immigration authorities on Thursday. The Serbian tennis player was originally allowed to attend the Australian Open through an exemption given by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia. However, that exemption and his visa were canceled upon his arrival to the country on Wednesday.
Djokovic's lawyers argued in the submission that the nine-time Australian Open champion had every reason to believe he would be granted entry into the country, as he "held a visa unqualified by any relevant condition ... had received certification of a medical exemption from vaccination from the tournament organizer... and had received from the Department of Home Affairs a document informing him that he met the requirements for quarantine-free arrival."
The "letter from the Department of Home Affairs" referenced by Djokovic's lawyers concerns the Australian Travel Declaration (ATD) form, which is a standard document that must be filled in by all passengers arriving in the country at least 72 hours before departure.
According to the ATAGI Expanded Guidance on temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines, a temporary exemption can be granted for visa holders in some cases involving a "PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, where vaccination can be deferred until 6 months after the infection."
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Thursday that Tennis Australia was advised in a letter as far back as November 2021 that unvaccinated players with a recent Covid-19 infection would not be allowed to enter the country.
The Serbian superstar hasn't publicly revealed his vaccination status, but in a news conference on Thursday, Morrison said the 34-year-old "didn't have a valid medical exemption" to the vaccination requirement for arrivals into the country.
Djokovic's legal team sought an urgent injunction against the Australian Border Forces' decision to revoke his visa. The country's Federal Court has adjourned the decision until Monday on whether he will be allowed to remain in Australia or be deported, according to Reuters and public broadcaster ABC.
How Novak Djokovic could be barred from playing in French Open .
Under the new rules, athletes without a vaccine pass cannot compete in France. Professional athletes, regardless of nationality, will now have to show their credentials and present a vaccine pass to access sports venues, France’s Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu told reporters on Monday.