Djokovic not told 'Covid exemption' would be accepted, Australian government claims

9 January 2022, 11:46 | Updated: 9 January 2022, 14:54

Serbian professional Novak Djokovic is currently being held in an immigration hotel in Melbourne.
Serbian professional Novak Djokovic is currently being held in an immigration hotel in Melbourne. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Novak Djokovic was not told that his "medical exemption" would allow him to enter Australia without having the coronavirus vaccine, government court documents claim.

The Australian government has today filed 13 pages of court documents before a hearing later which will decide whether the tennis star can stay in the country for the tournament, or whether he will be deported.

Djokovic argues that contracting Covid-19 on 16 December means he was given a medical exemption.

But the Australian government said: "It had not represented to the applicant that his so-called 'medical exemption' would be accepted."

Read more: Djokovic to learn of visa fate as Australia loses bid to delay tennis star's appeal

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The documents add: "It is common ground that the applicant is unvaccinated.

"And there is no challenge to what the delegate said about '[u]nvaccinated persons creat[ing] a greater health risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19 to others” thus further “burden[ing] the Australian health system'."

The documents also state: "The applicant presented a letter from Tennis Australia purporting to provide him with a 'medical exemption'.

"It does not refer anywhere to "contraindication".

"Nor does it give any medical reason why the applicant could not be vaccinated."

The concept of "contraindication" refers to the fact that Australia does not classify previous Covid-19 infection as grounds for exemption from vaccination.

Read more: Djokovic's wife calls for 'love and forgiveness' as tennis star held in anti-vax row

The government documents add: "There is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia.

"Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa."

The conclusion states: "The application should be dismissed with costs."

Djokovic's legal representatives previously submitted court documents stating: "Mr Djokovic held a Temporary Activity visa, which was granted to him on 18 November 2021.

"As the holder of the Visa, Mr Djokovic had positive permission to travel to, enter and remain in Australia."

The Australian government earlier lost its bid to have Djokovic's hearing delayed until Wednesday.

This means it will go ahead from 10am on Monday (Sunday evening UK time) as planned.

On January 4, Djokovic tweeted as he embarked on his journey to Australia.

He said: "Let's go 2022!"

Djokovic has been detained in the Park Hotel in Melbourne since Thursday morning as he awaits his appeal hearing.

He claims to have been questioned for six hours on arrival and deprived of sleep.

His family have spoken out about poor conditions at the hotel, which is doubling up as a migration detention centre.

His lawyers claim contracting the virus on December 16 means the world number one qualifies for a medical exemption, but the government documents dispute this on the grounds there was no evidence he had had an "acute" infection.

On December 17, Djokovic was pictured presenting trophies at an event, surrounded by around 20 children. No masks or social distancing appeared to be in place.

Djokovic currently holds 20 grand slam titles, and would be chasing his 21st from January 17.

He has previously spoken out against compulsory vaccinations.

This story is being updated.

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