Medical exemptions ‘not a loophole’ for ‘privileged’ tennis players: Merlino

The Victorian government says all people attending next month’s Australian Open must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and exemptions given for acute medical conditions are “not a loophole for privileged tennis players” to exploit.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has refused to specify his vaccination status on privacy grounds, and was named to play in the ATP Cup for Serbia in Sydney at the start of January, with no update provided on his status. The ATP Cup operates under the same COVID-19 protocols as the Australian Open, and requires full vaccination.

News Corp has reported that Djokovic, with the backing of Tennis Australia, could be granted a medical exemption and avoid vaccination.

But Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino stressed that exemptions applied for individuals only in rare circumstances.

He said the entry requirements were specified by the federal government.

“My view on this is is really clear and really simple,” Mr Merlino said.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic.Credit:AP

“Everyone’s everyone’s looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that; it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players.

“It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.

“My view and I think the view of all Victorians, the expectation of all Victorians is that everyone who attends the Open – player spectator, staff, officials, everyone’s fully vaccinated.”

While Djokovic was named to represent his country in the ATP Cup, neither he nor TA has yet confirmed that he will then compete in Melbourne at the Australian Open, starting on January 17.

“We can confirm that everyone entering Australia for the summer of tennis will need to meet the strict requirements set by health authorities across the country,” a TA spokesperson said.

“These include certified proof of vaccination, or a valid medical exemption approved by Australian medical officials.

“What has also been made clear by health officials is that international arrivals who don’t meet these requirements will need to quarantine for 14 days.”

When asked who was responsible for issuing exemptions, Mr Merlino said: “Ultimately it’s a Commonwealth decision.

“It’s a national body in terms of those medical exemptions, but they are just that – medical exemptions for an acute medical condition.

“It’s not a loophole for a privileged tennis player to get around. Everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated whether they’re sitting in the stands watching the Australian Open or the players on the court.”

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