Novak Djokovic: Letter proves Tennis Australia wrongly told unvaccinated players they could enter


A leaked document has shown Tennis Australia wrongly informed unvaccinated players they could enter the country for the Australian Open if they had caught Covid-19 within the last six months.

Novak Djokovic is being held in a hotel in Melbourne after his visa was cancelled as he did not meet visa requirements needed to enter Australia.

A letter was sent by Tennis Australia on December 7 to the Association of Tennis Professionals and then passed onto players, the Herald Sun reported.

The document said unvaccinated players needed to prove they’d had the virus within the past six months in order to enter.

Djokovic’s team are believed to have applied for his visa relying on a recent Covid infection.

A leaked document has shown Tennis Australia wrongly informed unvaccinated players they could enter the country for the Australian Open if they had caught Covid-19 within the last six months. It is believed Novak Djokovic’s visa relied on a recent Covid infection

However, Tennis Australia had already been notified by the Federal Government in November that prior infections would not allow the unvaccinated into the country. 

The document sent by TA outlined the two-step process players who haven’t been jabbed needed in order to play.

Those players needed an overseas medical exemption certificate and a second exemption either signed off by an Australian medical practitioner or a panel of expert medical personnel.

A section of the letter included reasons for a temporary medical exemption.

‘Recent PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (after 31 July 2021), where vaccination can be deferred until six months after the infection,’ it said. 

But a letter sent by Greg Hunt to Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley at the end of November shows the health minister had warned Australian Open officials that a recent infection would not grant players an exemption.

‘The Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI (the national advisory body on vaccines) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia,’ Mr Hunt wrote.

‘In relation to your specific questions, I can confirm that people who contracted Covid-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved or recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated.’  

Explosive emails from Health Minister Greg Hunt to the CEO of Tennis Australia prove the organisation had sufficient warning Novak Djokovic would not be granted entry to Australia

Explosive emails from Health Minister Greg Hunt to the CEO of Tennis Australia prove the organisation had sufficient warning Novak Djokovic would not be granted entry to Australia

A letter sent by Greg Hunt to Craig Tiley at the end of November shows the health minister warning Australian Open officials that a recent infection would not grant players an exemption

A letter sent by Greg Hunt to Craig Tiley at the end of November shows the health minister warning Australian Open officials that a recent infection would not grant players an exemption

Mr Hunt specifically reiterated to Mr Tiley that 'major sporting events' were at the mercy of 'relevant jurisdiction'

Mr Hunt specifically reiterated to Mr Tiley that ‘major sporting events’ were at the mercy of ‘relevant jurisdiction’

Mr Tiley had previously written to Mr Hunt and the health department for clarity on unvaccinated entrants, with the Tennis Australia boss receiving two separate and crucial replies. 

The letters, obtained by NCA Newswire, prove the federal government had given Australia’s tennis officials significant time to inform Djokovic and other tennis players hoping to enter unvaccinated. 

The 34-year-old world no.1 had believed an infection within the last six months would allow him to skip jab requirements, but Mr Hunt said only ATAGI’s definition of fully vaccinated would see players pass through the border. 

‘At this time, decisions to to support travel requests into Australia are carefully assessed by the Australian Border Force,’ he wrote.

‘The key consideration in the Commonwealth granting travel approvals including quarantine and flight arrangements, is to ensure returning Australians are not displaced and and that the general Australian community is protected from unnecessary health risk.’

Mr Hunt said only ATAGI's definition of 'fully vaccinated' would see players pass through the border, which does not include an infection within the past six months

Mr Hunt said only ATAGI’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ would see players pass through the border, which does not include an infection within the past six months

KEY QUOTES FROM GREG HUNT’S LETTER 

  • I can confirm that people who contracted Covid-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved or recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated.’
  • ‘The Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI (the national advisory body on vaccines) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia.’
  • ‘I encourage sporting organisations, including Tennis Australia, to continue to work with the Australian Border Force, state and territory health authorities and venues on Covid-safe plans for events, including for international travel where this is relevant.’

Mr Hunt specifically reiterated to Mr Tiley that ‘major sporting events’ were at the mercy of ‘relevant jurisdiction’ and that Tennis Australia should be ensuring they are working alongside Australian Border Force officials to ensure players were eligible to enter.

‘We encourage travellers to consult the requirements the state or territory they wish to enter to compete in the Australian Open and summer series lead-in events, to ensure they can meet the relevant entry requirements,’ the health minister penned.

‘I encourage sporting organisations, including Tennis Australia, to continue to work with the Australian Border Force, state and territory health authorities and venues on Covid-safe plans for events, including for international travel where this is relevant.’

The email is littered with links to official advice from the ABF and ATAGI regarding entry information, with a final reminder from Mr Hunt that players should be encouraged to do their own homework.

‘Finally, it is important to note that each individual is responsible for ensuring they meet the requirements for travel to and within Australia,’ he stated.

It is not known whether Mr Tiley had any correspondence or communication with Djokovic or his team prior to the Serbian’s attempt to enter the country.

Mr Tiley also received another letter from Mr Hunt’s department, sent nearly two weeks earlier by the National Covid Taskforce First Assistant Secretary Lisa Schofield. 

Djokovic now faces deportation back home, and is under police guard in a hotel in the CBD while his lawyers fight for his right to play

Djokovic now faces deportation back home, and is under police guard in a hotel in the CBD while his lawyers fight for his right to play

Serbian tennis fans wave flags in support of Djokovic outside of his hotel in Melbourne after the world's best tennis player was detained by the Australian Border Force

Serbian tennis fans wave flags in support of Djokovic outside of his hotel in Melbourne after the world’s best tennis player was detained by the Australian Border Force

In the letter, Ms Schofield writes on behalf of two professors from ATAGI, also confirming that a recent infection does not constitute fully vaccinated status in Australia. 

‘ATAGI notes that natural immunity from past infection is recognised in several countries, however ATAGI also notes the challenge of confirming past infection and uncertainties of the duration of protection,’ she wrote.

‘While evidence suggests past infection reduces the risk of reinfection for at least six months (and thus may be regarded as a temporary exemption for vaccination for a maximum of six months), ATAGI advises that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine) according to a recommended schedule is required in order to be considered fully vaccinated.’

The letters show that Mr Tiley, Tennis Australia and the Australian Open were fully aware that Djokovic’s basis for his exemption was invalid.

Whether that was relayed to the Serbian and his team remains to be seen, but he remains locked in a Melbourne hotel room while his legal team await a ruling from a federal court.  

Upon touching down in Melbourne about 11.30pm on Wednesday, the outspoken vaccine critic was whisked away and interrogated by immigration officials.

By Thursday morning, Australian border force officials confirmed his visa had been cancelled.

Initial reports suggested the visa he was granted did not allow medical exemptions for the unvaccinated, but Mr Morrison later confirmed that regardless, no exemption was in place.  

The multi-millionaire athlete was taken to the Park Hotel in Melbourne’s Carlton where dozens of immigration detainees are housed on bridging visa or as they await urgent medical care.

Just days ago detainees posted photos online allegedly showing maggots in the meals they had been served along with mouldy bread.

The facility has also been the scene of multiple fires and Covid outbreaks.

Djokovic’s case will be heard in court on Monday. 

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