standoff over Covid-19 vaccination

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Less than three months before the Australian Open, the issue of vaccination is stirring the tennis world. The local authorities exclude any participation of unvaccinated players, which could exclude from the first major of the season the title holder and world n°1, Novak Djokovic.

Particularly resistant to vaccination, the world of tennis follows with attention the soap opera around the Australian Open. The state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne will host the Australian Major in January 2022, ruled out Wednesday, October 27, granting a special exemption to unvaccinated players to participate in the tournament, which could exclude them from the competition the title holder and world N°1, Novak Djokovic.

“We exclude unvaccinated people from pubs, cafes, restaurants and the MCG (Melbourne’s main cricket stadium, editor’s note) and all sorts of other events,” recalled Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. “We will not ask for an exemption. Therefore, the question is fundamentally solved.”

Mandatory vaccination unless local dispensation

This reminder of the local authorities is the new episode of the soap opera that is stirring the world tennis, less than two months before the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year (from January 17 to 30).

An email from the WTA, organizer of the women’s professional tour, leaked earlier this week, suggested that players who had not been vaccinated against Covid-19 could participate in the tournament provided they respect a 14-day quarantine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison then said that unvaccinated players would be allowed into the country if they received an exemption, which the host state, Victoria, had to apply for on their behalf. But the State of Victoria has therefore ruled out this possibility.

It is, in fact, the Australian federal government that controls the country’s borders and issues entry visas, but during the pandemic, state governments decided on their own entry conditions (quarantine, mandatory vaccination).

Djokovic, leader of the slingshot

Djokovic, winner of the last three editions of the Australian Open and crowned a total of nine times in Melbourne, has in the past publicly taken a stand against vaccines and always refused to say whether he himself had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

On October 19, he hinted that he could skip the Australian tournament: “I don’t know if I’m going to go to Australia, I don’t know what’s going on. The situation at the moment is not good,” said “Djoko” in the Serbian press.

According to the ATP, in charge of the men’s professional tour, and the WTA, contacted by AFP, about 65% of players and more than 60% of players are vaccinated.

For the 2021 edition of the Australian Open, scheduled for February instead of January, the players and their coaches had to observe a two-week quarantine in hotels, before being able to move freely. The spectator capacity had been set at 30,000 per day, or 50% of the capacity. During the tournament, a five-day lockdown was declared in the state of Victoria.

With AFP

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