Australia pledges to enforce Covid rules
WAITING FOR ANSWERS Serbian Novak Djokovic attends a training session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Friday January 14, 2022 (January 15 in Manila). PHOTO MARTIN KEEP/AFP
MELBOURNE: Australia pledged on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to “rigorously” enforce its border rules on the Covid-19 vaccine as a decision loomed on the expulsion of unvaccinated tennis superstar Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian world number one is looking to clinch a 10th title at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, as well as a record 21st Grand Slam.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has come under fire for not making a decision sooner on whether to eject the 34-year-old tennis ace, an avowed vaccine skeptic.
Djokovic’s legal team scored a victory on Monday by overturning the cancellation of his visa by Melbourne Airport Border Control over his Covid-19 vaccination status.
Since then, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been threatening to use his own powers to tear up Djokovic’s visa a second time.
Hawke’s spokesman said midweek that “lengthy additional submissions” from Djokovic’s legal team had delayed a decision.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham insisted on Friday that Australia would only let in foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have an acceptable medical exemption.
“This policy has not changed and we will continue to strictly enforce this policy,” Birmingham told national broadcaster ABC.
The visa battle with Djokovic is politically charged in Australia, which has endured nearly two years of some of the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions.
Djokovic flew into Melbourne Airport on January 5 claiming a vaccine exemption due to a positive PCR test result on December 16.
Border officials rejected his exemption, saying recent infection was insufficient justification, tore up his visa and placed him in a detention center.
But Djokovic reversed the visa decision because the border authorities at the airport did not give him the agreed time to respond.