Djokovic admits Covid breach and ‘error’ on Australia forms
By Nic Fildes
Novak Djokovic has admitted that he attended a photo shoot after testing positive for Covid-19 and said discrepancies on Australian entry documents were the result of “human error”, adding to pressure on the tennis star as Canberra considers deporting him.
The disclosures could undermine the top-ranked player’s attempt to defend his title at the Australian Open next week, after he won an appeal on Monday against a government decision to cancel his visa.
The errors were revealed in court documents he provided to authorities, which were released following his legal victory this week. The mistakes have added to the outcry in Australia after social media posts appeared to show Djokovic maskless at public events after his positive test.
Djokovic released a statement on Instagram on Wednesday in which he sought to address “misinformation” about the timeline of events.
However, he confirmed that he had submitted incorrect details on his Australian travel declaration form on entering the country and that he breached Serbian regulations regarding isolation after he received a positive test prior to boarding his flight.
The Australian government is reviewing whether to cancel the visa again using its extraordinary powers. All arrivals to Australia are required to be vaccinated, but Djokovic received a medical exemption following the positive test.
The original decision to deport the player was quashed by a federal court on procedural grounds on the basis that the Australian Border Force had not acted reasonably.
Djokovic’s lawyers have submitted additional information to authorities, delaying a decision by the immigration minister, according to the government.
Djokovic said he was not aware he had tested positive for Covid until after a gathering where he presented awards to children on December 17. But the evidence his lawyers provided to Australian courts showed that both the test and diagnosis were issued on December 16.
The tennis star also admitted that he attended an interview and photo shoot with L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, on December 18 despite knowing he had tested positive. Djokovic said he was socially distanced and wore a mask except for when he had his photo taken. “While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment,” he said.
Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s prime minister, told the BBC prior to Djokovic’s statement that if he went out knowing he had a positive PCR test, it would be in “clear breach” of the country’s rules.
Djokovic said his agent had made an “administrative error” on the travel declaration in claiming he had not travelled internationally prior to entering Australia, given he had been in Serbia and Spain. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he said.
The latest disclosures may provide the government with more ammunition to cancel his visa again. The travel declaration, which was submitted under Djokovic’s name, has to be accurate in order to guarantee entry into the country and contains warnings that it is a “serious offence” to provide false information.