Australia Court Hears Novak Djokovic’s Appeal

SYDNEY, Australia – A lawyer for Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic argued in an Australian court on Monday that the government had erred in canceling a visa for Djokovic because he had complied with all the requirements of the government even if he had not been vaccinated for Covid19.

The hearing took place five days after Djokovic was detained at an airport after arriving on a flight from Dubai to compete in the Australian Open.

Djokovic landed on Wednesday evening on a visa and a vaccination exemption to participate in the tournament, which begins January 17, but border officials have canceled the visa with the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Authorities said Djokovic did not benefit from an exemption from the requirement that anyone entering the country be fully vaccinated.

The protracted dispute over the world’s best male tennis player, who seeks to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, landed at the start of an election year in Australia and started another round of international debates on vaccine policy .

With the Omicron variant pushing the number of Covid cases to new heights both in Australia and the rest of the world, Djokovic’s detention pits those who argue that vaccination is more important than ever to prevent serious disease against those who insist that no one be forced to be vaccinated.

On several occasions, Djokovic has declared his opposition to vaccination warrants, claiming that vaccination is a private and personal decision. He had only revealed last week whether he had been vaccinated, however.

In a court file on Saturday, lawyers for Djokovic said the tennis star tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-December and the Australian government erred in canceling his visa due to the vaccine requirement .

On Monday, Anthony Kelly, the federal court judge overseeing Djokovic’s appeal, noted at the hearing that his visa application included a medical waiver from a doctor, supported by an independent panel convened by the government of l ‘State of Victoria.

“The point I’m a little agitated about is: what more could this man have done? Said Judge Kelly.

But federal government lawyers, in their case, said past Covid-19 infections were not a valid reason to postpone vaccination against the virus.

According to vaccine guidelines released in December by the country’s leading medical body, people should be vaccinated against Covid-19 after recovering from “serious acute illness” and, according to the government, “the evidence is that the applicant recovered. “

It is not known if or when Djokovic was ill. On December 16, the day he said he tested positive, he appeared at a public event that was broadcast live. The next day, he appeared at an awards ceremony for junior players, where photographs showed he was not wearing a mask.

What is clear, even to many Australians who say the rules should apply to everyone, including sports superstars, is that they are embarrassed by the whole thing. Australia’s registration process for the tournament, and international travel in general during the pandemic, has been marred by confusion, dysfunction and political pointing which all add to an image of incompetence.

Djokovic inadvertently joined the fray on Tuesday, as he announcement on Twitter that he had received a medical exemption from the requirement that all people entering Australia be vaccinated or quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.

In a statement later today, Craig Tiley, managing director of Tennis Australia, explained that players seeking exemption must submit to two panels of medical experts. The process included drafting personal information to ensure confidentiality.

Communications between national health officials and Tennis Australia, and between Tennis Australia and the players, have revealed conflicting messages as to whether unvaccinated people infected with the coronavirus in the past six months would be granted medical exemption Automatique.

Federal officials wrote to Tiley in November to say that testing positive for the virus in the past six months would not be enough to automatically enter the country without a vaccination. But leaked letters to Australian news outlets showed that an adviser to Australia’s federal health official also told Tennis Australia that the state of Victoria, where the tournament takes place, is responsible for assessing exemptions.

On December 2, Brett Sutton, the health officer in Victoria, wrote to Tennis Australia: ‘Anyone with a history of recent Covid-19 infection (defined as within 6 months) who can provide appropriate evidence of this medical history, exempt from quarantine requirements upon arrival in Victoria from abroad.

Five days later, Tennis Australia delivered the message to the players.

Djokovic landed at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday. After an almost 10-hour standoff at the airport, border officials said he should leave the country. He was held in a room overnight over the validity of his visa and questions about the evidence supporting his medical exemption.

His team filed a legal challenge against the decision on Thursday. A judge said Djokovic would be allowed to stay in Australia in a hotel that houses refugees at least until Monday as his lawyers await a hearing.

By this point, the decision had already become political. Australian leaders have a long history of electoral victories with harsh rhetoric about border enforcement despite harsh treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention centers, and Morrison has followed a predictable scenario.

Facing a tough re-election campaign as the economy begins to freeze due to a wave of absences caused by an Omicron outbreak and a lack of testing capacity, he rushed to the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, trying to present it as a clear case of public order.

Rules are rules“he said, adding:” Our government has a solid form when it comes to securing our borders, and I think no one doubts that. “

Critics of Australian immigration policies said they were appalled, but not surprised. The hotel where Djokovic is staying is home to dozens of refugees, some of whom have been detained for nearly a decade.

“As a country we have over time proven to be very aggressive in enforcing immigration policy,” said Steven Hamilton, a former Australian Treasury official who teaches economics at George Washington University. . “People overseas should see it through this lens rather than as a health measure. It has nothing to do with health.

Border officials told Czech doubles player Renata Voracova on Friday that she, too, would have to leave the country, even though she had played in tune-up tournaments last week.

Voracova, who received a medical exemption because she had Covid-19 in the past six months, was transferred to the same hotel as Djokovic, but chose to leave the country voluntarily rather than fight the decision to ‘expulsion.

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