6 January 2022
Most people know that Novak Djokovic is pushing to be the Greatest tennis player Of All Time (GOAT) and needs just one Grand Slam victory to achieve this. Most also know he has been very successful in the Australian Open, which starts next week. There is little doubt that a lot of people, myself included would be very interested in whether he can win after his failure against Medvedev in the US Open.
Many people are aware that he has been anti-vax and he unwisely attended a tournament last May and he and a number of others got COVID19, presumably by the Delta variant, but this is not recorded.
He has never been a popular as the smooth Roger Federer, or the rougher battler Raphael Nadal who are his great rivals for the GOAT title. He was seen as not quite as warm a character. He was praised by the President in his native Serbia for his early victories, but this cooled a bit when he made politically progressive statements. His anti-vaxx statements have been frankly embarrassing.
Australia has a rule that if you are not vaccinated you cannot have a visa.
Whether this should be the only criterion for entry should be a moot point. With most infectious disease, having antibodies at a certain level assumes that you are immune to reinfection with the same disease. This works for polio, but with ‘flu, where the virus changes, people get infected by a different strain every year.
The CDC (US Centre for Disease Control) guidelines are somewhat equivocal about antibodies. They will not say that having antibodies means either than you cannot be infected or that any infection will be minor. It seems that COVID is considered more like ‘flu than polio.
It was not clear on what ground Tennis Australia allowed him to come, but now Border Force have excluded him, and the Prime Minister smugly talks about rules being rules.
It is important that we are protected, and many Australians have endured a lot of suffering in lockdown to achieve this, so they have little time for people to be treated differently. But if Djokovic had COVID 6 months ago, it is hard to believe that he constitutes a high risk when the whole country has decided to abandon masks, distancing, QR codes and venue number restrictions. One might wonder what his antibody status is, or whether this was known.
It is important that various agencies in a country remain independent. We do not want Border Force deciding medical issues, nor Tennis Australia deciding immigration policy. But Australia looks pretty silly, when one group allows him and another does not. As a tennis watcher, I would like to see him play, and it does seem that the politics are overcoming the science.
Now we bring in the lawyers, another idiot factor?