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Novak Djokovic: tennis player has visa revoked on vaccine issue

The decision by the Australian government to revoke the entry visa of Novak Djokovic adds a new but not unexpected twist to a tale that has preoccupied the world media over the past number of days. While the decision must be ratified in court, it is unlikely that it will be overturned.

Djokovic had been detained and held in isolation since his arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday. His legal team immediately lodged the appeal which will be heard on Monday.

Prior to this morning, the controversy over the leading world tennis player seemed to have boiled down to whether or not he has an exemption from taking a Covid-19 vaccine that would allow him to compete in the Australian Open, which begins January 17th.

Australia requires all foreign visitors entering the country to be double vaccinated, or to complete 14 days in quarantine, unless they had a medical exemption.

Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, claimed on Tuesday that he was in possession of such an exemption and that was followed by a statement from the tournament organisers to the effect that the Serbian was on his way to Australia and would take part.

The Australians were not just taking Djokovic’s own word for it but said that “Djokovic had applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process that involved 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 guidelines.”

They did stress that any personal information supplied was redacted on privacy grounds, but urged that Djokovic make the grounds for his own exemption public. This could be seen as a means by which the organisers were standing over the technical decision, but also adopting a position that places the onus on Djokovic himself to justify it.

The Federal Government accepted that Djokovic did have an exemption allowing him to travel to Australia but quickly turned the tables back on both Djokovic and the tournament organisers by stating that he would have to provide evidence as to why he was exempt.

The government has turned the issue into one as to whether anyone ought to be granted “special treatment” which is designed to appeal to the majority of those who are vaccinated and still subject to restrictions. Restrictions on unvaccinated Australians are considered harsh by internationals standards.

Of course, the irony of politicians who supported all the restrictions getting on their high horse and affecting to take the side of those subject to them when it arises in this context is lost on most. Djokovic has also made himself an easy target both by his statements appearing to oppose vaccination and his refusal to divulge the grounds for the exemption.

In the midst of all that, the fact that he apparently has satisfied the panel that adjudicated on his exemption status has become mostly lost. Another indication that emotion can be guaranteed to trump facts and, dare one say it, science, if the exemption is found to be valid, when everything gets to be decided in a vox pop.

The upshot of this is that Djokovic has now been taken to an hotel where he must remain in quarantine until a court hearing on Monday which will decide on his deportation.

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