Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew has condemned the decision to grant Novak Djokovic an exemption from Covid-19 vaccine requirements at the Australian Open.
The Serbian tennis ace, 34, sparked outrage among vaccinated Aussies on Tuesday after he posted a photo to Instagram of himself at an airport and declared he was on his way to defend his title in Melbourne after obtaining a rare medical exemption.
Bartholomew, 38, who is an outspoken advocate for vaccination, said on Wednesday she understood why so many Australians are upset by the decision.
Outrage: Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew (left) has condemned the decision to grant Novak Djokovic (right) an exemption from Covid vaccine requirements at the Australian Open
‘I think for so many people, particularly in Victoria, it’s the culmination of all of the frustration that we’ve been feeling not just for two years, but particularly over the last couple of weeks with all the delays in testing and not being able to see family,’ she said.
She also pointed out that exemptions from Covid rules are extremely hard to come by for ordinary Australians.
‘People who have not been able to get medical exemptions for their own families to see people who are dying!’ she said.
Sports presenter Mark Beretta agreed: ‘The premier [of Victoria, Daniel Andrews] has made the message so clear, “Get vaccinated to get to events and to have a life outside again.”
‘And here, one person for whatever reason, they’re a tennis star, is cleared to go.’
Speaking out: Bartholomew, who has long advocated for Australia’s Covid vaccine mandates, voiced her frustrations at the decision during Wednesday’s broadcast
Unimpressed: Sports presenter Mark Beretta (right) agreed, adding: ‘The premier has made the message so clear – ‘get vaccinated to get to events and to have a life outside again’
It comes after Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley revealed that Djokovic did not receive special treatment when he was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Tiley outlined the process that will see the Serbian athlete soon arrive in Australia, and said the tennis superstar’s application was reviewed and approved anonymously by two independent medical bodies.
‘The grounds are the same for everyone’: It comes after Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley revealed that Djokovic did not receive special treatment when he was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open . Pictured: Djokovic (R) poses on the red carpet with his wife Jelena (left)
‘Novak applied for a medical exemption which was granted by a panel of experts,’ he said.
‘Professional players do not have to reveal their personal or medical information… the grounds are the same for everyone.
‘They were given the opportunity to be added to the Australian Immunisation Register which sees (some) people exempt from vaccines if approved by a panel.
‘As an organisation, we (Tennis Australia) abided by the conditions and the decision was left in the hands of medical experts.
No special treatment: Speaking on 3AW, Tiley confirmed there was no special treatment given and said Djokovic ‘did what everyone else could do to come to Australia’
‘A total of 26 athletes applied for the same exemption – and (only) a handful were granted.’
While the identity of those other players or coaching staff was not revealed, Tiley was quick to point out no ‘special favours’ were granted to Djokovic.
‘We told players as far back as six months ago getting vaccinated would ensure they could arrive and then play in Australia,’ he added.
Application approved: Djokovic’s successful exemption followed a review process involving two independent panels of medical experts
‘It is up to Novak whether he wants to disclose his medical status and personal information.’
Speaking on 3AW, Tiley confirmed there was no special treatment given and said Djokovic ‘did what everyone else could do to come to Australia’.
‘Every application was reviewed anonymously. No one knew whose application was received by who. They looked at it purely on the grounds that were set medically by the government,’ he said.
Unknown: Djokovic’s vaccination status remains unknown – but in April 2020, the 34-year-old said he was opposed to mandatory jabs
Djokovic’s successful exemption followed a review process involving two independent panels of medical experts — the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.
His application was approved after Djokovic also confirmed he has not tested positive for Covid-19 in the past six months.
Djokovic’s vaccination status remains unknown – but in April 2020, the 34-year-old said he was opposed to mandatory jabs.
‘Personally I am not pro-vaccines,’ he said at the time. ‘I would not like it for someone to compel me to be vaccinated so I can travel.’
‘I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission’: The sportsman, who is gunning for an 10th grand slam in Melbourne, confirmed on Tuesday he will be heading down under to defend his title from 2021
The sportsman, who is gunning for an 10th grand slam in Melbourne, confirmed on Tuesday he will be heading down under to defend his title from 2021.
‘Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet️,’ Djokovic wrote on Instagram.
‘I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022 !!’.
WHY IS DJOKOVIC EXEMPT?
Australia’s Department of Health says medical exemptions are handed out if the individual has an ‘acute major medical condition’.
Under the guidelines, these conditions could include:
– Inflammatory cardiac illness in the last three months
– Undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness
– A Covid-19 diagnosis that means vaccination cannot be made for six months
– Any serious effect to a Covid-19 vaccine in the past (Note: Djokovic has not confirmed whether or not he has been jabbed)
– If the vaccine is a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process
– Underlying developmental or mental health disorders
Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino said last month that medical exemptions are ‘not a loophole’.
‘Medical exemptions are just that,’ he said. ‘It’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players.
‘They are medical exemptions in exceptional circumstances – if you have acute medical conditions.’
The decision by Tennis Australia to grant Djokovic an exemption on medical grounds has infuriated some tennis fans and sports commentators.
‘Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke — who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus — gets his exemption. Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential,’ Melbourne based sports commentator Andy Maher wrote on social media.
Former AFL star Corey McKernan went a step further, tweeting: ‘People with loved ones who are dying / some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number 1 you get a pass? F***ing disgrace.’
News of Djokovic heading to Melbourne will also leave Victorian Premier Dan Andrews (pictured) red-faced. Andrews said last year he would not ‘facilitate’ unvaccinated tennis stars entering the country
News of Djokovic heading to Melbourne will also leave Victorian Premier Dan Andrews red-faced.
In October, Andrews said Djokovic needed to be vaccinated to play at the Australian Open.
‘Those (grand slam) titles won’t protect you either. The only title that will protect you is that you can be able to say you’ve had your first dose and you’ve had your second dose,’ he said.
‘The notion of you getting in here without being vaccinated I think is very, very low. All the people who are watching the tennis at the Australian Open, they’re going to be double-vaxxed, all the people that work there are going to be double-vaxxed.
‘It stands to reason that if you want to get into the country to be part of that tournament, then you should be double-vaxxed as well.’
Djokovic also won’t have to quarantine when he arrives in Australia for two weeks – with the Australian Open beginning on Monday, January 17.
Free: Djokovic also won’t have to quarantine when he arrives in Australia for two weeks – with the Australian Open beginning on Monday, January 17. Pictured is Djokovic posing after winning the Australian Open in 2021