Are Athletes an Exception? Djokovic’s Bid for a Vaccine Exemption Stirs Backlash

Published January 6th, 2022 - 09:40 GMT
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has previously explained that he is opposed to COVID19 vaccines. (Glyn Kirk/AFP)

It is fairly hard to travel around the world without having received at least two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. After all, governments worldwide are struggling to curb the spread of the deadly virus that keeps mutating and igniting fears. However, many people still refuse to receive the jabs for a variety of reasons, some of which are international celebrities and athletes who need to travel globally.

With almost 90% of its above 16 years old people vaccinated, Australia has been implementing strict rules when it comes to welcoming unvaccinated non-citizens, including renowned athletes.

The world's No.1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic, is amongst people who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, he needs to be in Australia this week to take part in the 2022 Australian Open tournament. 

Consequently, 34-years old Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last night after having obtained a visa and a medical exemption, issued by two independent medical panels in the country that is suffering a massive spike in coronavirus infections.

Hours after Djokovic made it to Australia, border officers examining his paperwork announced revoking his visa and transferring him to a government-detention center, in preparation for deportation in a few days. This decision has infuriated Djokovic's team and the Serbian president who sent his national a message of support.

A number of Novak Djokovic's fans protested in Melbourne with Serbian flags, accusing Australian authorities of targeting their national hero, who continues to be amongst the world's top tennis players since 2008.

Several online commentators have questioned demands by Djokovic and his supporters who are trying to pressure Australian authorities to give him special treatment based on his status as a well-known athlete.

On Monday, Novak Djokovic won his legal bid for a medical exemption and was allowed to leave the detention center to defend his tennis title in the 2022 Australian open.


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