The status of unvaccinated players at the Australian Open in January has taken another turn this week as local state officials in Victoria – where the Grand Slam will be held – are at odds with government officials over exemptions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a local media outlet on Wednesday that unvaccinated players would be allowed to enter the country, whose borders have virtually been sealed for the past 18 months, for special reasons and that includes events like the Australian Open.
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“We want major events in this country. A lot of jobs depend on it. We want Australia to show to the world that we are open,” Morrison said, via AAP. “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.”
The rule Morrison is referring to is a two-week quarantine.
According to a leaked email from Australia Tennis to WTA, the sport’s governing body in Australia said this week that unvaccinated players would be allowed to participate after undergoing a “two weeks hard quarantine.”
“We feel the need to reach out to you all to clear up false and misleading information that has recently been spread by other parties about the conditions that players will be forced to endure at next year’s Australian Open,” the email read.
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The email followed public statements from Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, who said last week that participants will need both doses of the vaccine to be eligible to participate – a measure that applies to anyone trying to enter the country and Daniel Andrews, premier of the state of Victoria, who said he thought it was unlikely that unvaccinated players would be granted a visa.
Andrews doubled down on his stance Wednesday saying that Victoria would not apply for an exemption to allow unvaccinated athletes to enter.
“On behalf of every vaccinated Victorian who has done the right thing, my government will not be applying for an exemption for any unvaccinated player,” he said, via Reuters. “If we don’t apply for an exemption, then no exemption will be granted and then the whole issue is basically resolved.”
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The standstill between state officials and the government could prove to be a costly one.
The tournament’s most successful player, Novak Djokovic, has not confirmed his vaccination status or if he will even attend the event, which he has won a record nine times.
I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry,” he said at the time. “People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say – ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’ – they will take advantage.”