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Australia rebuffs ‘unvaccinated’ Djokovic’s visa case

Australia’s government said Sunday world tennis number one Novak Djokovic is not vaccinated against Covid-19 and his legal battle to stay in the country should be dismissed.

The 34-year-old Serbian is fighting to overturn the shock cancellation of his visa so he can be released from a Melbourne detention centre and chase a tenth victory in the Australian Open, which begins January 17.

A federal court judge, Anthony Kelly, has called an online hearing to decide the case at 10:00 am Monday (2300 GMT Sunday), in a legal drama that has gripped tennis fans worldwide.

Djokovic, a publically avowed vaccine sceptic, has never revealed his Covid-19 immunisation status.

But in a 13-page court filing made public Sunday, Australian government lawyers said it was a matter of “common ground” between both sides in the legal fight that Djokovic “is unvaccinated”.

People who are not vaccinated pose a greater risk of spreading Covid-19 to others, and of burdening the health system, they said.

Djokovic believed he had a Covid-19 vaccination exemption when he flew into Australia on Wednesday on the basis that he had tested positive for the virus on December 16, 2021.

But the country’s vaccination exemption form states that a previous infection “is not a contraindication to immunisation”, the lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews stressed.

They also rejected a separate argument that Djokovic was treated unfairly because he was pressured into letting a border agent take a decision on his visa without giving him extra time to rest and consult his lawyers.

In fact, they said, the player had a long opportunity to put his case to the border agent and he had previously contacted his lawyers.

“The application should be dismissed with costs,” the government side concluded.

But even if the judge sided with Djokovic he should limit himself to quashing the visa cancellation, the lawyers said, and it would still be open to border control to make “another cancellation decision”.

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