Novak Djokovic ‘must provide acceptable proof’ for exemption or ‘he’ll be on next plane home’

Australian Open
Novak Djokovic in action

Australia’s Prime Minister has warned Novak Djokovic that he will be on the “next plane home” if his evidence for being exempted from Covid-19 vaccination rules is deemed insufficient.

World No 1 Djokovic is poised to defend his Australian Open title in a fortnight after tournament organisers prompted public outrage by granting him permission to play.

But the Serbian could yet face problems at the border as the country’s government has stated he requires “acceptable proof” that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison adamant the player will not receive any preferential treatment on arrival.

Djokovic – a nine-time winner – has not spoken publicly about his vaccination status but last year said he was “opposed to vaccination”.

It remains unclear what qualifies the 34-year-old for exemption, and tournament director Craig Tiley has said it would be “helpful” for Djokovic to clarify his situation.

His hopes of competing could yet be scuppered by intervention from the federal government.

“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,” PM Scott Morrison said

“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.

“So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides to support that. 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.

“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all, none whatsoever.”

More than 90 per cent of Australia’s over-16 population is fully vaccinated.

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Morrison’s comments were echoed by a statement from Australia’s minister for home affairs Karen Andrews.

“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our strict border requirements,” her statement read.

“While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border.

“Since December 15 2021 fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption, and enter eligible states and territories quarantine free.

“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.

“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.”

The Australian Open is scheduled to begin on January 17.

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