Djokovic Prepared to Miss French Open, Wimbledon Tournaments Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Tennis star Novak Djokovic says he is prepared to skip the next two major championships if it means he will have to take a COVID-19 vaccine to enter the host countries.

During an interview with the BBC Tuesday, the world’s number one male tennis player said he remains opposed to taking the vaccine, and says “it is the price I am willing to pay” if it means missing the French Open in May and Britain’s Wimbledon tournament the following month.

The 34-year-old Serbian’s stance comes just weeks after a dramatic standoff with Australian immigration officials cost him a chance to win a record 21 Grand Slam titles when he was deported before the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne, the first major championship of 2022.

FILE - Novak Djokovic reacts during the "Honorary citizen of the city of Budva" award ceremony, in Budva, Montenegro, Jan.  28, 2022.

FILE – Novak Djokovic reacts during the “Honorary citizen of the city of Budva” award ceremony, in Budva, Montenegro, Jan. 28, 2022.

Two independent health panels set up by the Victoria state government and Australian tennis authorities initially granted Djokovic a medical waiver to enter the country, as he had been infected with the coronavirus back in December. However, immigration officials canceled his visa, and he was sent to an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne. His visa was reinstated by an Australian judge, but later revoked a second time by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who said Djokovic’s presence in the country would stir anti-vaccination sentiment.

FILE - Anti-vaccination protesters demonstrate outside Melbourne Park after Serbia's Novak Djokovic was believed to be held at an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, Australia, Jan.  15, 2022.

FILE – Anti-vaccination protesters demonstrate outside Melbourne Park after Serbia’s Novak Djokovic was believed to be held at an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 15, 2022.

Djokovic defended his decision to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine during his BBC interview, saying “the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.” But he said he does not support any anti-vaccination campaign, saying merely that he believes in “the freedom to choose what you put in your body.”

“I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus,” Djokovic said.

Cook Islands detects first case

In other COVID-19 developments, the Cook Islands has announced its first-ever COVID-19 infection. Prime Minister Mark Brown told reporters Sunday that a visitor tested positive after arriving last Thursday on the island of Rarotonga, the largest of the 15 islands that make up the remote South Pacific nation.

Prime Minister Brown says the person was a close contact of a family member in New Zealand who tested positive for COVID-19. The person is in isolation at a private holiday accommodation along with two companions.

The newly detected case ends the Cook Islands’ status as one of the few places in the world that had been COVID-19 free over the course of the two-year-old pandemic. The island had just reopened its borders to air travel last month after maintaining strict limits, and had boasted of its high vaccination rates.

Hong Kong

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters Tuesday there were no plans to impose a complete lockdown on the financial hub to combat a new surge of coronavirus infections. Health authorities announced more than 1,600 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, one day after posting a record-setting 2,071 new infections.

Lam said Monday that “the onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France- Presse and Reuters.

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