MY VIEW: The Novak Djokovic saga

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 18 January 2022: Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, world no 1 in Tennis, 9 times winner of Australian Open(AO) titles is back home, with bad news coming from France. His story here made global headlines. The big sporting icon was in detention after his entry visa to Australia was canceled, won it back in court, again canceled, again went to court, and lost. Finally, deported back to Serbia. All this for not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The Australian Open (AO) has opened and is likely to go on.

So, what happened? Let’s make it straight. Australia does not allow non-citizens or non-permanent residents, to enter the country without being vaccinated or without an exemption. When Novak entered Australia he was not vaccinated but had an exemption. He had announced his AO plans in a Tweet. But things turned out differently.

He was stopped at the airport for many hours and then detained as was not allowed entry into Australia. Shifted to a detention center (a hotel) with asylum seekers around. His plea in a court gave dividends and the visa was restored and he started training. Novak seemed to be getting back on track.

Despite support from Serbia, family, friends, and supporters, a confident Novak got the bad news. His visa was canceled under the Minister’s discretionary power to curb possible “civil unrest” against vaccinations. He went to the federal court, which upheld the Minister’s decision. Entering Australia without vaccination could boost the anti-vaxer’s here.

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Factually looks simple. Though some have blamed politics and others blamed the Morrison government for messy handling. Simply put, he was given exemption from getting vaccinated and granted an entry visa as per Australian law. But what subsequently made the reversal is a truism. Only, a visa (with an exemption or not) to an unvaccinated person (known for anti-vax views) should not have been granted at the onset. The subsequent mess would not have happened. Anyway, reports indicate Novak might sue the Australian Government for detention, amounting to ill-tratment.

The people of Australia (like other countries) are now in the third year of the pandemic. The Omicron is showing its colors and the suffering to life, business and society speak for itself. No one can be above the law, whatever be the world ranking.

UPDATED

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Neeraj Nanda

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