Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday that an incorrect response had been made to his Australian entry documents, breaking the country’s strict laws on reporting recent travel as the government said it was still considering deporting the star from tennis.
Djokovic was held in immigration detention in Melbourne for several days after his visa was canceled by border force officers, who questioned his medical exemption for being required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
He was released on Monday after a judge overturned the ruling, saying the visa cancellation was “unreasonable” because the player did not have time to consult with lawyers and tennis officials when he arrived in the tournament. country.
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Djokovic said his travel declaration was completed by his support team, who made an “administrative error” by checking the “no” box in response to whether he had traveled elsewhere in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.
“It was human error and certainly not deliberate,” Djokovic said. “We are living through difficult times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can happen. “
The statement came as Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was considering canceling the visa for the world’s No.1 tennis player ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
Giving false or misleading information on the form is an offense, punishable by a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison and a fine of up to A $ 6,600 ($ 4,730) and may result in the cancellation of the visa of the offender.
Djokovic, who is looking to win a record-breaking 21st major tennis tournament at the Open, said his lawyers provided additional information to the Australian government on Wednesday to clarify the matter.
A spokesperson for Hawke, who has discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa again, said the minister is still considering taking action, a process that would be extended to assess the new information.
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Australia has a policy prohibiting entry to non-citizens or non-residents unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but offers a medical exemption. Djokovic’s visa was canceled on the grounds that he had not been vaccinated and his medical exemption was not satisfactory.
Monday’s court ruling did not say whether that exemption – based on Djokovic’s contract with COVID-19 last month – was valid.
Djokovic’s case sparked a row between Canberra and Belgrade and fueled a heated debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.
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Questions arose about Djokovic’s movements before coming to Australia when social media posts appeared to show him in Belgrade less than two weeks before he traveled to Spain and then Australia.
Testimonies from two eyewitnesses and another person, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, corroborated the social media posts.
Djokovic, who held another training session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, did not detail his trip in his statement Wednesday acknowledging the mistake.
In its online explanation of the 14-day travel reporting requirement, the government said the information helps determine necessary quarantine arrangements and allows health officials to contact any arrivals if another traveler tests positive for COVID-19.
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The player also apologized in his statement for attending an interview and photo shoot with L’Equipe on December 18, the day after he said he learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
“While I returned home after the interview to isolate myself for the required period, after reflection, it was an error in judgment and I accept that I should have postponed this engagement,” he said declared.
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Djokovic denied media reports that he also knew he had contracted the virus when he attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present prizes to children a day earlier.
“I was asymptomatic and feeling good, and I had only received notification of a positive PCR result after this event,” he said, adding that a rapid antigen test performed before the event came back negative.
Social media posts showed Djokovic posing with the children, without wearing a mask.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul, Byron Kaye and John Mair; written by Jane Wardell; edited by Lincoln Feast.)