Australian PM says ‘Nobody above’ rule amid Novak Djokovic’s detention over COVID impact

As Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, continues to be detained, the Australian Prime Minister is defending the actions of the country’s Border Force.

Djokovic, who has denied confirming whether he received a COVID-19 vaccine, was detained by immigration authorities on Thursday. The Serbian was initially allowed to participate in the Australian Open through an exemption provided by the Victorian state government and Tennis Australia. However, that waiver and his visa were canceled when he arrived in the country on Wednesday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference on Thursday: “Nobody is above these rules. “Our strong border policies are crucial to Australia having one of the lowest mortality rates in the world from COVID. We are continuing to remain vigilant.”

Despite Morrison’s words, the Serbs were not kind to the tennis player’s treatment. Djokovic is largely considered the country’s national hero, with his family being among the biggest voices on dissent.

“You, the famous Prime Minister of a naturally beautiful country far away, are behaving according to your own principles, which have nothing to do with us and our principles,” said Djokovic’s father, Srdan. know. “We are human, and you, sir, are not.”

The city of Melbourne, which hosts the Australian Open, is experiencing a massive increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the city reported 21,728 new infections and six deaths from the virus. Hospitalizations also increased in the city that spent a total of 256 days of lockdown throughout 2020 and 2021.

Djokovic's Day 11
Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, is currently detained in Australia after he was denied a visa waiver and a COVID-19 vaccine visa waiver. Pictured, Djokovic celebrates after winning a set point in the men’s singles semi-final against Roger Federer of Switzerland on day 11 of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 30, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.
Photo by Matt King / Getty Images

Many in Australia cheered the decision to block Djokovic’s appearance.

Thesis writer Peter FitzSimons wondered how it could have been any other way.

“After all, the first great slam of the year was held in one of the most locked-down cities on the planet, where people have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep the population as healthy as possible,” he said. write in page Sydney Morning Herald this week. “And he intends to just rush in, being the exception to the rule, just because he can hit the ball well?”

On social media, many shared that sentiment, with one poster complaining that during the lockdown he was unable to fly from the UK to Australia for a family funeral, and so the tennis star should not be allowed in.

But some say the athlete is being seen as a scapegoat.

“He’s playing by the rules, he’s got his visa, he’s coming, he’s a nine-time champion and whether people like it or not, he has the right to play fair,” said the former Australian Open chief. Davis Cup racket Paul McNamee told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There is no doubt that there is a disconnect between the state and the federal government.”

“I hate to think that politics is involved, but it feels like it,” he added.

In recent months, Morrison’s government has shifted to a virus-coexistence approach that includes wider borders and a softer touch of domestic restrictions. He made the changes as soon as the highly contagious omicron variant took effect.

Morrison, who is seeking re-election in March, has faced heavy criticism for the new strategy. But he points to Australia’s low death rate and strong economy – both among the best in the world – as evidence that he can steer the country through the crisis.

“We have no choice but to ride the waves (Omicron case). “What’s the alternative? What we have to do is click.”

Morrison has also been criticized for not securing enough rapid antigen tests to relieve pressure from PCR testing sites, where wait times in some states have exceeded five hours. He refused to make rapid tests widely available and free.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has been hardest hit by the current Omicron surge, which emerged after Premier Dominic Perrottet eased mask and other regulations. Other states have been slower to relax virus-related restrictions, creating tension between Australia’s states and the federal government.

Djokovic had to wait for court proceedings at a Melbourne hotel, which also houses refugees and asylum seekers who have been transferred from Australia’s offshore detention centres. In October, an outbreak of COVID-19 at the hotel infected about half of the 46 asylum seekers who were subsequently detained there.

Djokovic’s brother Djordje said the tennis star was taken “to a dirty room without any furniture.”

Djordje added: “He is treated like a criminal, while he is a healthy, decent man and a sports athlete who does not endanger anyone’s life and have not committed any federal or statutory violations.”

The process that led to the initial decision for Djokovic to be exempt is currently under scrutiny. Tennis Australia insists the immunity has been granted by an independent panel of medical professionals, not knowing whose records they are reviewing.

The cases of two other Australian Open players who are also exempt from vaccination based on health are currently being closely examined.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Friday that Renata Voracova, a 38-year-old doubles tennis player from the Czech Republic, also had her visa canceled and taken to the same hotel where Djokovic was staying. Tennis Australia and the Australian Department of Home Affairs did not immediately respond to confirmation calls.

It is not yet clear who the third player is.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Djokovic detained
Defending Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic of Serbia waits at an Australian Border Force desk as he arrives at Melbourne Airport, Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Locked in dispute over COVID vaccination status -19, Djokovic was detained in an immigration detention hotel in Australia on Thursday, January 6, 2022 as the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player awaiting a court ruling on whether Can he compete in the Australian Open later this month?
Photo AP Australian PM says ‘Nobody above’ rule amid Novak Djokovic’s detention over COVID impact

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