Novak Djokovic has revealed he will be defending his Australian Open title at Melbourne Park this month after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine exemption.
The decision comes after the state government of Victoria ruled that all players and other participants in the Australian Open, which states on January 17, must be fully vaccinated.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission,” the 34-year-old Serbian player said in a post on social media.
A statement issued late on Tuesday night by the Australian Open confirmed Djokovic had received a medical exemption after “a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines,” the statement read.
The Victorian government said it had worked closely with Tennis Australia on establishing an “independent and rigorous process to assess requests for medical exemptions at the Australian Open.”
“Any player who is granted a medical exemption will have gone through a two-stage, independent process to verify they had a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption.”
Djokovic had previously refused to reveal his vaccination status, prompting speculation that he would either have to pull out of the competition or obtain an exemption to play.
“Personally, I am not pro-vaccines,” Djokovic said back in April 2020.
“I would not like it for someone to compel me to be vaccinated so I can travel. But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”
Of course, the exemption has upset people on all sides of the debate.
The pro-vaxxed and paranoid are warning that “unvaccinated” Novak poses a serious threat to the nation, even though, apparently, more than 90% of Australians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated against that supposed threat.
On the other side, those opposed to vaccine mandates have noted the countless Australians who have lost their income and had their careers abruptly ended by strict and unforgiving “no jab, no job” policies.
“Another Covid decision on political, not medical grounds,” tweeted Queensland One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.
“Admire his tennis ability and courage in standing up for his rights,” Roberts said. “Detest Andrews Victorian government’s inhumane mandates and coercion on Australians. Why flog Aussies?”
An Australian health worker who lost her employment due to the mandates told Caldron Pool: “I’m happy for anyone who manages to get an exemption to these draconian rules.”
“I’m happy Djokovic will get to play. But I can’t help but wonder if he were anyone else, if he were in any other career, would our current overlords treat him the same way? I’ve had friends who’ve been told, not even severe adverse reactions to the first jab are enough to warrant an exemption to the second.
“We’re losing good nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, aged care workers, and more. But this is where exemptions are offered? Tennis?”
The Australian Open is two weeks away, but no doubt as tempers continue to flare, the lobbing will begin much earlier, and of the kind pictured below: