As Myanmar’s military junta was prosecuting the country’s beloved pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday for allegedly violating COVID restrictions, Australian officials were busy humiliating themselves along similar lines in their case against Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic.1

Djokovic, the number one male tennis player in the world, traveled to Melbourne to defend his title at the Australian Open. But he was detained by the Australian Border Force (ABF) last Wednesday (December 5) after touching down at Tullamarine Airport. The Victoria state government had granted him a health exemption to the country’s national vaccine mandate, which requires all foreign visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, on the grounds that he recently recovered from the virus. But the country’s federal regulations do not recognize natural immunity as an alternative to vaccination, and the ABF deemed Djokovic’s exemption invalid. Officials held him for eight hours before sending him to a makeshift medical detention center at a rundown hotel to await a hearing.

Djokovic’s arrival triggered a string of Aussie politicians declaring they would not tolerate double standards—that their COVID rules apply as much to rich, healthy athletes as to everyone else, regardless of immune status. Djokovic’s visa was canceled; the nine-time Australian Open winner was told he would not be allowed to play. “While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,” said Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. “If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”2  . . .

Love him or hate him, @DjokerNole served @ScottMorrisonMP and @AlexHawkeMP a valuable opportunity—to pause, reflect, and reconsider the implications of individual rights for pandemic policy. Unfortunately, they’ve double-faulted.
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1. The New York Times reports, “The guilty verdict for violating Covid protocols stemmed from an episode during the 2020 election campaign when she walked through a crowd of supporters while wearing a face shield but no face mask. Earlier reports indicated that the conviction was based on the same incident as her earlier conviction in which she stood outside, in a face mask and face shield, waving to supporters in vehicles.” She was also found guilty of illegally importing communications devices after investigators found walkie-talkies belonging to her security detail. See Richard C. Paddock, “Aung San Suu Kyi Gets 4 Years for Greeting a Crowd and Having Walkie-Talkies,” New York Times, January 10, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/10/world/asia/myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-verdict.html.

2. Joe Morgan, “Novak Djokovic Denied Entry into Australia, Visa Canceled,” DailyWire, January 5, 2020,

https://www.dailywire.com/news/novak-djokovic-denied-entry-into-australia-visa-canceled.

3. “Novak Djokovic: Judge Orders Immediate Release of Tennis Star,” BBC News, January 10, 2022,

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-59932430.

4. Dan Wolken, “Vaccine Exemption for Australian Open Will Cement Novak Djokovic as Tennis’ Top Villain,” USA Today, January 4, 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2022/01/04/novak-djokovic-vaccine-exemption-australian-open-becomes-villain/9088030002/.

5. Hilary Whiteman, “Djokovic Won His Court Case but Few Australians Are Cheering,” CNN World, January 11, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/10/asia/australia-djokovic-covid-ruling-analysis-intl-dst-hnk/index.html.

6. Jessie Gretener, “‘They’ve Forgotten Us’: Thousands of Australians Stranded Overseas in the Face of Government’s Stringent Border Controls,” CNN Travel, September 14, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/australians-stuck-abroad-covid/index.html.

7. Dinah Wisenberg Brin, “In Australia, Victoria Introduces Sweeping Worker Vaccination Mandate,” SHRM, November 9, 2021, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/coronavirus-australia-victoria-vaccination-directive.aspx.

8. Renju Jose and Byron Kaye, “Australia COVID-19 Cases Surge, Overloading Testing System,” Reuters, January 4, 2022,

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australias-covid-19-cases-surge-hospitalisations-hit-pandemic-high-nsw-2022-01-03/.

9. “What Has Novak Djokovic Actually Said about Vaccines?,” BBC News, January 6, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59897918.

10. David Cole and Daniel Mach, “Civil Liberties and Vaccine Mandates: Here’s Our Take,” American Civil Liberties Union, September 22, 2021, https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/civil-liberties-and-vaccine-mandates-heres-our-take/.

11. “Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html (accessed January 12, 2022); “Allergic Reactions Including Anaphylaxis after Receipt of the First Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine—United States, December 14–23, 2020,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 15, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7002e1.htm; Carolyn Crist, “Washington Woman Died after Rare Vaccine-Related Blood Clot,” WebMD, October 7, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20211007/washington-woman-died-rare-vaccine-related-blood-clot.

12. Ellen Ransley and Courtney Gould, “Novak to Stay Another Day as Immigration Minister Mulls New Submissions,” January 12, 2022, https://www.news.com.au/sport/tennis/immigration-minister-alex-hawke-to-make-final-decision-on-novak-djokovic-visa-case/news-story/93ef90a0b6218a4e8371bc9dc4263359.

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