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Australian PM says officials still mulling canceling Novak Djokovic's visa

Australian PM says officials still mulling canceling Novak Djokovic's visa
Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action during a training session at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday. Defending Australian Open champion Djokovic remains in limbo awaiting a decision from immigration minister Alex Hawke. Photo by Diego Fedele/EPA-EFE

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday the minister of immigration was still mulling whether to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa while suggesting the tennis star may not be permitted to stay in the country as he is unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The future of Djokovic's bid to compete for a fourth consecutive Australian Open title remains in the hands of immigration minister Alex Hawke, seemingly until at least Friday morning. Morrison told reporters Thursday that a decision on Djokovic's visa was still under consideration.

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The prime minister also noted that government policy states that a non-citizen must be double vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved medical exemption.

"That's the policy. That policy hasn't changed," he said. "That is the policy and of course we would be expecting the authorities to be implementing the policy of the government when it comes to those matters."

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Djokovic landed in Melbourne from Spain on Jan. 5 to compete in the first Grand Slam event of the year, which is set to begin on Monday. However, the world No. 1 was detained by immigration officials and had his visa canceled despite holding a medical exemption approved by Tennis Australia and the government of Victoria State.

On Monday, a judge reinstated Djokovic's visa and ordered his release, but Hawke still has the power to cancel it a second time and order him to leave the country. It was also learned Tuesday that the Australian Border Force was investigating his travel documents.

Amid the scrutiny, Djokovic acknowledged Wednesday that he had submitted documents falsely stating he had not traveled internationally within 14 days of arriving in Australia. The tennis star had, in fact, traveled between his native Serbia and Spain. He also admitted to taking part in an interview and a photo shoot in mid-December in Serbia, despite knowing he was infected with COVID-19.

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The admissions have stirred further controversy for Djokovic in both Spain and Serbia, where officials are scrutinizing his travels.

In Spain, the ministry of the interior confirmed to local media COPE that it has asked the police to investigate the player's entry into the country.

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In Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told the BBC that the Djokovic may have violated the country's COVID-19 rules by not isolating for 14 days after finding out he had contracted the virus.

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According to travel documents submitted to Australian officials, Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 16, but he acknowledged on Instagram that he attended a children's tennis award ceremony the next day and participated in the photo shoot the day after.

"If you're positive you have to be in isolation," Brnabic told the British news service. "I don't know when he actually got the results, when he saw the results, so there is some grey area ... The only answer to this can be provided by Novak."

Simon Chambers, co-president of the International Tennis Writers Association, also told CNN that it's "deeply concerning" that Djokovic did not tell reporters that he'd tested positive.

"As journalists, we take great care to adhere to all COVID-19 rules in place and we would expect all players to do the same," he said. "Furthermore, it should be noted that journalists have to be fully vaccinated to travel to Melbourne for this year's Australian Open."

In his social media post, Djokovic said that attending the photo shoot after a positive COVID-19 test "was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment."

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