‘Basically resolved’: Victoria rules out exemptions for unvaccinated tennis stars

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has shut the door on unvaccinated tennis players competing at January’s Australian Open at Melbourne Park, saying unequivocally that the state would not be applying for an exemption allowing them to do so.

The political argy-bargy between Victoria and the federal government went up a notch on Wednesday when Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated that unvaccinated tennis stars could be cleared to play.

“There needs to be a little bit of flexibility so we can live with the virus,” Mr Morrison said on Nine’s Today show.

“We want major events in this country. A lot of jobs depend on it.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt also lobbed the ball back into Victoria’s court.

“In terms of the tennis, pretty simple position, and that is: you can come in if you are double vaccinated,” Mr Hunt said on Wednesday.

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has not revealed his vaccination status, saying it’s a private decision.Credit:AP

“If a state is seeking an exemption for somebody to come in for a workplace program or a similar event and they are unvaccinated, they can come in if that state seeks it. They are subject, however, to the two weeks quarantine, and that’s without fear or favour.”

However, Mr Andrews said Victoria’s stance meant the issue was “basically resolved”.

“What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players,” he said.

“I’m not applying for any exemptions for any unvaccinated players. So we don’t apply for an exemption, then no exemption will be granted. And then the whole issue is basically resolved.

“I’m not going to actually require people sitting in the grandstand people working at the event to be vaccinated while players aren’t, so we’re not going to be applying for an exemption.”

Mr Morrison’s said exemptions were in place for a reason, but that unvaccinated travellers would still be required to quarantine for two weeks.

“If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason … that can happen, but you have to follow the health rules in that state,” he said.

“Two weeks quarantine for unvaccinated people, that is sensible.

“It is nice to have, you know, all clear and hard-and-fast rules, but there needs to be a little bit of flexibility so we can live with the virus.”

In Victoria, professional athletes fall under the government’s vaccine mandate for authorised workers. Last week, Mr Morrison’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said that double jab requirements applied to all visitors to Australia, and no exceptions existed for tennis players.

Mr Andrews has more than once endorsed Immigration Minister Hawke’s comments that double vaccination was a condition of entry into Australia.

“That is a matter for the Commonwealth,” Mr Andrews said on Tuesday. “No one’s trying to pretend it’s like state governments [which] issue visas or passports.

“If the federal government has a different view after what the immigration minister said the other day, [it] changes, then they can explain why it’s changed and when can respond to it accordingly.“

Mr Andrews had also highlighted the juxtaposition that staff working at Melbourne Park in January would need to be inoculated.

“The ball kids will have to be double-vaxxed if they’re over 12 [years of age]. Everyone going there will be double-vaxxed, the staff will be double-vaxxed,” he added on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if it necessarily becomes an issue because I don’t know that people who are not Australian citizens who are not vaccinated will be allowed in – that’s what the Immigration Minister said the other day and I couldn’t agree more.”

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday he believed the risk of unvaccinated players could be adequately managed through the quarantine system.

Tennis Australia has been feverishly working to present multiple models to government on how this issue can be smoothed out.

Vaccination rates among the professional tennis bodies – the Women’s Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals – have been sluggish.

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