Under vaccine guidelines issued in December by the country’s chief medical body, people are expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after recovering from “acute major medical illness,” and, the government argued, “the evidence is that the applicant has recovered.”
It is not clear if or when Djokovic was ill. On Dec. 16, the day he said he tested positive, he appeared at a live-streamed public event. The following day, he appeared at an awards ceremony for junior players, where photographs showed that he was not wearing a mask.
What is clear, even to many Australians who say that the rules should be applied to everyone, including sports superstars, is that they are embarrassed by the whole affair. Australia’s entry process for the tournament, and international travel generally during the pandemic, has been marred by confusion, dysfunction and political point-scoring that all add up to an image of incompetence.
“It’s a dog’s breakfast,” said Mary Crock, a law professor at the University of Sydney. “The rules are changing all the time, no one knows which rules apply, that’s the essence of this. You’ve got a massive conflict between the migration law, the biosecurity law, state decision makers and the federal government, and everything is in conflict.”
Djokovic inadvertently joined the fray on Tuesday, when he announced on Twitter that he had received a medical exemption from the requirement that all people entering Australia be vaccinated or quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
In a statement later that day, Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, explained that players seeking an exemption had to pass muster with two panels of medical experts. The process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy.
Communications between national health officials and Tennis Australia, and between Tennis Australia and players, have revealed contradictory messages about whether unvaccinated people infected with the coronavirus during the past six months would receive an automatic medical exemption.
Damien Cave and Matthew Futterman