Anti-vaxx players could find the Australian border shut if they try to arrive for the Open next January without being jabbed.
That’s the hard word from Victoria’s top state sports boss, who dropped the hint as the US Open got underway in New York.
“Whether or not it’s as strict as you won’t get into Australia if you’re not vaccinated, that I don’t know,” Sport minister Martin Pakula told Melbourne’s SEN radio on Wednesday.
“I’m very sure that the rules for unvaccinated players and the rules for vaccinated players, I’m quite confident will be very different.”
Australia ha been locked down for over 18 months, with little movement of citizens in or out of the country; but the tough zero-COVID policy has blown up in recent months, with major cities now undergoing the lockdown felt in Europe in 2020.
Vaccinations have not exactly taken off among the tennis population with the most optimistic estimates suggesting that perhaps 50 percent of Tour competitors have been vaccinated.
Noted among the anti-vaxxers are world No.1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both came out months ago in favour of jabs which help protect against COVID-19 hospitalisation.
With the Australian Grand Slam staged three weeks later than normal this year (February) and players forced to spend a fortnight in near-lockdown, negotiations to set up a less stringent system have been underway between Tour tennis bosses, Tennis Australia and the Victorian government.
“We’ll provide clarity for the ATP and the WTA very shortly, but I think they can be very confident that being vaccinated will be a wise thing for them to do before they seek to come to Australia,” Pakula said. by way of warning.
Pakula is optimistic that the Grand Slam will go ahead at the start of 2022 at Melbourne Park in January,
“It’s hard to be certain about anything right now but I’m very confident that the Australian Open will go ahead,” Pakula said.
“We were able to get the tournament away last year and that was with zero per cent of the community vaxxed.
“So I’m very confident the Australian Open will go ahead and it’s very important that it does.”
Suggestions are emerging that competitors may still have to arrive a fortnight before the start of play but will live in a flexible bubble allowing them free access to the tennis complex and their sealed-off hotels.
Main photo:-Victoria State Government Sports Minister at a press conference – ©Victoria State Government