Novak Djokovic visa decision delayed again, after admitting COVID breach

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still yet to decide whether to allow Novak Djokovic to remain in Australia, with a government verdict on the tennis star’s entry visa further delayed after he admitted errors on his travel paperwork.

Further questions have been raised over Djokovic’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, after he admitted attending several public events while positive for the virus – with Serbian authorities now also investigating if he breached the country’s isolation rules.

Mr Hawke is considering whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa, after a Federal Court ruling overturned an earlier Border Force decision to revoke the Australian Open champion’s entry to Australia.

The Immigration Minister has the power to send Djokovic home, and further concerns have emerged over the unvaccinated Serbian athlete’s paperwork, after entry documents claimed he hadn’t travelled elsewhere overseas in the 14 days before entering Australia.

In fact, Djokovic had spent time in Spain and Serbia in that time period.

Giving false or misleading information on Australian arrival documents is a serious offence, while civil penalties are also possible.

On Wednesday, the tennis star released a lengthy statement on social media, blaming his support team and manager for what he claimed was an “administrative mistake”.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur,” he wrote.

“Today my team has provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify this matter.”

Moments before Djokovic’s statement was released on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Mr Hawke confirmed the minister was still considering the visa decision, in light of the new information provided by the athlete.

“Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation,” the spokesperson said.

“Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”

The Australian Open begins on Monday.

Although his status to remain in Australia is still under consideration, Djokovic may also have questions to answer in his home country over whether he breached Serbian COVID rules by attending public events while waiting for a PCR result, and attending a media photo shoot after being confirmed positive.

In his Wednesday statement, he said he took rapid tests and PCR tests on December 16, after attending a basketball game in Belgrade on December 14. He claimed to have no symptoms at the time.

After testing negative on two rapid tests, and while awaiting his PCR results, he went to a children’s tennis event on December 17.

He said he did not receive the positive result until a day later.

However, in a sworn affidavit to the Federal Court, Djokovic said he was “tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2” on December 16.

A medical certificate in his affidavit said he was tested for COVID at 1.05pm on the 16th, with a result received at 8.19pm that day.

Photos from the children’s event show a maskless Djokovic standing among a large group and posing for photos.

Djokovic said he also attended a media interview and photo shoot on December 18.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said in his written statement.

In an interview with the Seven Network on Wednesday morning, Djokovic’s mother Dijana claimed her son “didn’t know, probably” that he was COVID-positive at the time of those events.

“When he realised he was positive, he went into isolation,” she said.

Serbia requires positive COVID patients to undertake 14 days of isolation.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said it would be a “clear breach” of the country’s COVID rules if he had gone outside after getting a positive PCR result.

However, she said Djokovic’s case was a “grey area” that he had to explain.

“If you’re positive you have to be in isolation,” Ms Brnabic told the BBC.

“I do not know when he actually got the results, when he saw the results, so there is some grey area … the only answer to this can be provided by Novak.”

Coalition government ministers were not keen to answer questions on Djokovic’s status on Wednesday, saying Mr Hawke was still considering his position.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told 4BC radio there was “nothing I can say here today that may prejudice those processes”.

“It is an ongoing matter, and that is where it stands at this point in time. It stands with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and within his discretion to consider cancelling,” Ms Andrews said.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Sky News it would be “inappropriate, as the matter’s ongoing, for me to make any comment” but said Mr Hawke was “considering it very thoroughly and will make a decision at an appropriate time”.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese called the incident a “mess” and accused the Coalition government of “a grand slam of failures”.

“It is a very embarrassing situation for Australia, given this story has been the biggest story in sport for months,” he told Channel Seven.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles described the episode as “a circus” and “a massive distraction”.

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