Tennis Australia letter ‘wrongly told unvaccinated players they could enter with previous Covid infection’

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 (Getty Images)
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Tennis Australia mistakenly informed unvaccinated players they could enter the country for the Australian Open if they had recovered from Covid in the past six months, according to a leaked letter.

Novak Djokovic is being held in a Melbourne immigration facility after his visa was cancelled.

Australian Border Force (ABF) refused to let the 34-year-old into the country, saying he had failed to provide appropriate evidence to justify a medical exemption required to enter without a vaccine.

The Serb, who has won the tournament nine times, has appealed against the decision – but must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate.

A letter sent by Tennis Australia (TA) on December 7 to the Association of Tennis Professionals made clear that unvaccinated players simply needed to prove they had contracted the virus in the past six months to enter the country, the Herald Sun reports.

The advice contradicts official guidance from the Federal Government, who informed the sports body in November that previous infection would not be included on its list of medical exemptions for entry.

Mr Djokovic’s team are thought to have applied for his visa based on a recent Covid infection.

However, the letter from TA outlines a two-step process by which unvaccinated players can enter the country.

“Recent PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (after 31 July 2021), where vaccination can be deferred until six months after the infection.

“If you fall into this category, please provide laboratory PCR result from the first positive test, antibody levels if available and evidence of any previous or subsequent vaccinations if relevant.”

It adds: “The current ATAGI guidance for those who have had a recent Covid infection is to be vaccinated once you have recovered from the acute illness.

“It may also assist the independent panel if you can provide a letter from your doctor or public health authority as to why you have not received a full dose of an approved vaccination following Covid-19 infection.”


However, a letter sent by Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt to Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley warned that unvaccinated players could not use previous infection as an exemption.

“The Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI (the national advisory body on vaccines) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia.

“In relation to your specific questions, I can confirm that people who contracted Covid-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved or recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated.”

The original decision to grant Mr Djokovic a medical exemption sparked fury in Australia, where some 90 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. Despite high levels of immunity, Australians face restrictions amid a rise in cases.

Two other people connected to the Australian Open have joined Mr Djokovic in being instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force (ABF).

One of the individuals is Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova, who played in a warm-up tournament in Melbourne this week but has now opted to leave Australia.

Mr Djokovic broke his silence on the situation on Friday, thanking people around the world for their support.

“Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,” the Serbian tennis number one wrote on Instagram on Friday.

The Evening Standard has contacted Tennis Australia for comment.

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