In-article:

Australia revokes Novak Djokovic’s visa again


by Ian Ransom and Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian authorities have again revoked the visa of world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, saying his failure to be vaccinated against COVID-19 could pose a health risk.

“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic, on grounds of health and public order, on the basis that this decision was in the public interest,” Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.

Under the terms of this law, the 34-year-old player, who was seeking a 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, will be banned from entering Australian territory for three years, except in exceptional circumstances affecting Australia’s interests.

“Australians have made enormous sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the fruits of their labors to be protected,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

“That’s what the minister is doing with this decision…to protect Australians,” he added.

NEW LEGAL BATTLE IN VIEW

Faced with the controversy sparked in Australia by the medical exemption of the 34-year-old tennis player to participate in the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, the Canberra authorities had revoked his visa for the first time last week.

This decision was then canceled on Monday by the Australian courts, which had also ordered his release from the detention center where he was interned.

An emergency hearing began Friday at 9:45 GMT to examine the new cancellation of the Serbian player’s visa before the same Australian judge Anthony Kelly who had first canceled the cancellation of Novak Djokovic’s visa.

Novak Djokovic’s lawyers asked during this hearing for an injunction to prevent his deportation from Australia.

The controversy surrounding the fate of the player, politically thorny for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, campaigning for the federal election in May, has also added to debates around the world on the rights of the unvaccinated.

The player’s exemption had been very badly received in Australia, where the “zero COVID-19” strategy in force until the arrival of the Delta variant resulted in heavy restrictions for the population.

Melbourne is thus the longest confined city in the world, in cumulative duration, since the start of the pandemic.

Australia is also, like many other countries, currently facing an outbreak of contamination fueled by the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Melbourne defending champion Novak Djokovic was included in the official Australian Open draw on Thursday and is in the final draw as the number one seed.

The player, whose nickname changed from ‘Nole’ to ‘Novax’ in recent days, was due to face compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

(Report Sonali Paul and Ian Ransom in Melbourne, written by Michael Perry; French version Myriam Rivet, edited by Blandine Hénault)



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