Wednesday, 05 January 2022 12:56

Australian Prime Minister threatens to throw Djokovic 'on the next plane home'.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Australians have reacted angrily to news that tennis player Novak Djokovic will play in the Australian Open, after being exempted from vaccination rules.

All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel.

Djokovic has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year said he was "opposed to vaccination".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if the player's evidence was insufficient he would be on the "next plane home".

Organisers says the defending champion has not been given special treatment, but the decision has infuriated many Australians. The country is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world's strictest restrictions.

Over 90% of Australia's over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.

Amid the controversy,Morrison said the Serbian player would be required to present evidence upon arrival that he has a genuine medical exemption from vaccination. The Australian Open begins on 17 January in Melbourne.

"If that evidence is insufficient, then he won't be treated any different to anyone else," the prime minister told reporters. "There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever."

The comments seemed to represent a change in his position, after he said on Tuesday that the Victoria state government had provided the player with an exemption to enter the country and that officials would act "in accordance with that decision".

"I think it's a disgrace," Melbourne resident Christine Wharton told ABC. "We've all done the right thing, we've all gone out and got our jabs and our boosters and we have someone that has come from overseas and all of a sudden he's been exempt and can play."

A&E doctor Stephen Parnis tweeted: "I don't care how good a tennis player he is. If he's refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn't be allowed in."

The decision raised eyebrows with some other tennis players too. "I just think it's very interesting. That's all I'm going to say," Australian Alex de Minaur said.