Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has put a full stop to the debate between tennis players and Australian officials, saying there will be no exemptions to mandatory vaccinations at next year’s Australian Open.
That leaves record nine-time Open champion Novak Djokovic leading a wave of players who may miss the opening grand slam of 2022, if they refuse to confirm they are vaccinated against COVID.
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested on Wednesday that exemptions might be granted for unvaccinated tennis players to travel to Australia, as long as they agreed to 14 days’ quarantine.
“If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason … that can happen but you have to follow the health rules in that state. Two weeks quarantine for unvaccinated people, that is sensible,” he told Nine’s Today show.
“We want major events in this country, a lot of jobs depends on it. We want Australia to show to the world that we are open.”
Mr Morrison’s comments were in line with a leaked email earlier in the week from Tennis Australia to the WTA Players’ Council.
It asked players to “please keep this information confidential until the government makes an official announcement”, but said quarantine would be allowed for players who weren’t fully vaccinated.
But Mr Andrews stepped up shortly afterwards to squash the idea of any special deals.
“I want to be very clear with every Victorian, my government won’t be applying for an exemption for any unvaccinated player,” he said.
He also slapped down the idea of moving the Australian Open to another state, saying Victoria would keep the grand slam despite the calls.
“We will host the event but we will not be applying for an exemption for unvaccinated players to come here. And that is the only fair thing to do,” Mr Andrews said.
“I am not going to ask and require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event to be vaccinated while players aren’t. We’re not going to be applying an exemption. Therefore, the issue is basically resolved.”
Mr Morrison’s comments on Wednesday contradict his Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, who last week said athletes would need to be double-vaccinated to enter the country.
Also on Wednesday, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt offered more details on an apparently softer stance on unvaccinated tennis players.
“If a state is seeking an exemption for somebody to come in for a workplace program or a similar event and they are not vaccinated, they can come in if that state seeks it,” he said.
“They are subject, however, to two weeks of quarantine and that’s without fear or favour.”
Mr Hunt said it was an issue for the Victorian government and Tennis Australia.
“If there is a no jab, no play policy in Victoria, that’s a matter for them to resolve,” he said.
“If the state wishes to seek the exemption for the players, not only one particular player, then that would be created at the Commonwealth level on a major event basis.”
Djokovic has repeatedly refused to reveal whether or not he has received a jab. Mr Andrews’ comments appear to rule out the world No.1’s appearance in Melbourne.
– with AAP