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Millennium Post

Wake-up call

Wake-up call
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Lovers of irresponsible freedom rejoice! The 'saviour', Novak 'Novaxx' Djokovich has emerged victorious against the Australian government and proved that laws and common decency are not for the rich, the famous and the successful. His father, who compared his son's 'struggles' to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ must be so proud. For the rest of us who are not quite high and senseless so on 'freedom', this is a moment of sad reflection. For those unaware, this fiasco started when tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovich flew into Melbourne on January 5 to defend his title at the upcoming Australian Open. Upon his arrival, Djokovich was detained by border authorities for eight hours before being told his visa will be cancelled as he did not have the proper required exemption to excuse him from Australia's vaccination policy. Djokovich had earlier asserted that he had a valid medical exemption to allow him to bypass the requirement for double vaccination to enter Australia for the tournament. Later, it would be confirmed that the exemption is based on a positive PCR test on December 16. Djokovich decided to fight his deportation order in court and this week, he emerged victorious. Among other things, the judge noted that Djokovich's exemption had been approved by two bodies, one organised by Tennis Australia and the other by the Victoria state government. But the biggest factor was that the judge expressed concern that Djokovich was not given enough time to consult his lawyers regarding the cancellation of his visa. The court ultimately ruled to hand Djokovich the victory and the reaction worldwide was immediate. While a section of fans, supporters and anti-vaxxers revelled in his victory, others reacted with anger and bitterness. Consider the amusing, expletive-filled exchange between Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor of 7NEWS who could not hold back their unflattering impression of Djokovic and were caught on camera during the commercial break calling him a 'liar', 'sneaky' and a whole host of things that are not likely to be printed. The unmindfulness of the hosts aside, the sentiment expressed does capture quite accurately what Australians themselves seem to feel about Djokovich. Australians have just endured over 200 days of strict lockdown and are currently facing down more restrictions as the Omicron wave causes a record spike in case counts. At a time when everyone is sick and tired of COVID-19 and the related precautions, the actions of one man who considers himself too special to get a vaccine as required are undeniably upsetting. His family's insufferable tirade about Djokovich being a symbol of freedom only makes it worse. And, yes, while one cannot deny that the Australian authorities have completely mucked up the whole situation by introducing what seems to be rapidly changing and contradictory guidelines, Djokovich is not just some victim of bad bureaucracy. Consider the fact that Djokovich has admitted that the recent travel history on his travel declaration form is wrong. It does not mention that he was in Belgrade on December 25 and southern Spain on December 31 before he travelled to Australia. Consider also the fact that Djokovich made a maskless appearance in public in his native Belgrade on December 17, a day after he had taken a PCR test on suspicion of being COVID positive. Of the two ceremonies he attended while in Belgrade, at least one had children attending. Djokovich seems to now be making some kind of appeal on human error (his travel agent's obviously) but it is unknown if this will sit well with Australian authorities who already are looking for any excuse to send him packing before the Australian Open begins. Regardless of how you see this series of events, it is hard to deny that this is a chain of errors that begins with Djokovich. The Serbian tennis star could have just gotten the vaccination as required and none of this would have needed to happen. Instead, the vaccine sceptic decided that his vaccination status is a matter of privacy and has spoken out against vaccination and vaccine mandates. Coming from a man who thinks positive feelings can purify water, such anti-science thinking is hardly surprising. To begin with, his assertion that his vaccination status is a matter of privacy makes no sense in a public health crisis where the pandemic can only be brought to an end when enough of us get vaccinated. Like any of us, Djokovich does not and should not have the freedom to go around getting infected and infecting others. Allowing leeway to vaccine sceptics like him will only undermine the progress that has been made worldwide. In conclusion, Djokovich's victory is not a victory of freedom. It is a wake-up call for governments to tighten vaccination rules without exemption. Leaving aside real medical exemptions, players should only be allowed to play tournaments if they are vaccinated.

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