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If Djokovic fails to prove exemption, he'll be sent home: Australian PM

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Canberra, Jan 5 (IANS) Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said tennis superstar Novak Djokovic will be sent back home if he can’t provide ‘sufficient’ evidence to support his vaccination exemption from COVID-19 vaccination.

The number one on Tuesday said that he received a medical exemption to play the Australian Open title later this month in Melbourne, adding that he was heading to Australia.

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Notably, Djokovic has never spoken publicly about his vaccination status but he criticised mandates ruling that players must be double-jabbed.

“My view is that any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements. Now Novak Djokovic, when he arrives in Australia, he has to, if he’s not vaccinated, must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully-vaccinated travellers,” Morrison told a media conference on Wednesday.

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“So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that. If that evidence is insufficient, then he will be treated no 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,” he added.

Morrison added that any exemption given to Djokovic will still have to stack up upon arrival in Australia.

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“There are other cases – there are quite a number over the last couple of years – where people have had these exemptions and have the suitable proof to support their claim in those circumstances. So the circumstance is not unique. The issue is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption,” the Australian PM said.

Meanwhile, the organisers said that the defending champion has not been given special treatment, but the decision sparked sharp criticism in Australia, where more than 90 per cent of people over 16 have had two vaccine doses against COVID-19, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.

The country is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world’s strictest restrictions.

The Serbian had said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the January 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

With his record nine titles, Djokovic is the most successful player in the history of the Australian Open. He is also in a three-way tie on 20 career Grand Slams titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

–IANS

avn /cs

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