Two more Australian Open tennis players with COVID travel exemptions depart Australia

Two tennis players who were allowed to enter Australia under medical waivers have now left the country.

Sources close to the players confirmed to The Ticket that they left Australia after Novak Djokovic was detained upon arrival, Czech Renata Vorakova and one official were expelled.

Before Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last week, the group was allowed to enter the country and move freely around Melbourne.

The federal government said there was no shift in government policy before and after the world number one’s arrival.

While Djokovic has confirmed he has not been vaccinated and has sought medical exemption based on his recent COVID infection, it is not clear how four others were allowed through immigration.

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Novak Djokovic practices at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.

The Australian Border Force has been contacted for comment.

The emergence of other players on exceptions in Australia has added to the confusion about the treatment of tennis players by border officials upon arrival.

The Department of Health issued advice to Australian Open officials on November 18, which said in part:

“ATAGI is not responsible for border control issues, however, the Australian Border Force has advised that people must meet the full definition of vaccination established by ATAGI to enter Australia without quarantine.”

In seeking further clarification, a letter from Health Minister Greg Hunt to Tennis Australia on 29 November read: “…the Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI, to enter Australia without quarantine healthy.”

Confusion about ATAGI’s advice

ATAGI’s “Full Vaccine Definition” advice is available here, and was last updated December 15.

Novak Djokovic hits a tennis ball in a white shirt and hat.
The government denied a policy shift occurred during Djokovic’s crossing. (Getty Images: Kelly Devina)

He notes that natural immunity from previous infection is “recognized as fully immune in many European countries”, however, it has concluded that a double dose of the vaccine is necessary to be considered fully immune.

“While evidence suggests that prior infection reduces the risk of re-infection for at least six months (and thus can be considered a temporary exemption to vaccination for a maximum of six months), ATAGI recommends two doses of an approved TGA or still TGA-recognized COVID-19 vaccine on schedule. The recommended time is required for it to be considered fully immune.

Previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 is not a contraindication to vaccination.

However, in a separate section, advice notes may result in an exemption.

“The COVID-19 vaccination for people who have had PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can be postponed for a maximum of six months after acute illness, as a temporary relief due to a severe acute medical illness.

With those confusions still not entangled, Novak Djokovic himself is preparing to compete in the tournament that has made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Djokovic signed to the top of the seed list on Thursday and will face Serbian Miomir Kikmanovic in the opening round.

He was allowed to play after winning an appeal in federal court that had his visa, which had originally been revoked, overturned.

However, the final decision on whether Djokovic will contest his record-breaking 21 Grand Slams rests with Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has the power to revoke his visa regardless of the court’s ruling.

A decision is expected before the opening round of the tournament.

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