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11 days. It took so long to become clear: Novak Djokovic had to leave Australia and was not allowed to play at the Australian Open. The country’s government has made it clear that the law applies to everyone. Even for top athletes. A profoundly democratic decision. Because here the following applies: all citizens are equal.

The focus is not on the question of sport, but on how to fight the pandemic. Australia has a successful anti-Covid strategy. A cornerstone: stricter entry restrictions. No infected person should enter the country. This applies to everyone, foreigners as well as residents. Even for athletes. And with that, Australia should be a model for the world.

Australia treats everyone the same

Australia, on the other hand, operates on a fundamentally democratic principle: all people are equal. Anyone who has been vaccinated twice is allowed to enter. Djokovic declined to comment – until a court hearing, when he said he had been vaccinated. Their application for a special permit was reviewed before entering their country – anonymously by a commission, as is the case for everyone else. And after this special permit, border officials came to the conclusion that he did not meet any of the exceptions to the rule, such as a corona infection in the past few months or a serious operation that made vaccination impossible.

Djokovic’s lawyers then submitted documents regarding a positive PCR test from December 16, 2021. However, the tennis player did not have to quarantine then, because on the 17th he met young Serbian tennis players – without wearing a mask. A behavior that raises many questions – for example, why he did not pass this test when he was admitted.

Rights but also obligations for all to limit infections

The world number one has twice complained about being denied entry. It is his right. So does Australia’s insistence that it wants to protect its people. There are two effective measures to stop the spread of corona: vaccination and strict contact restrictions. Everyone is free to speak out against vaccination. However, there are no good reasons for this – as all relevant studies confirm. Nevertheless, the individual’s right to violence is respected in a democracy. But not one way. Anyone who thinks they are at risk from vaccination does not have the right to be treated as a vaccinated person. He would have to implement the protection of fellow human beings in a different way: by relentlessly avoiding all contact. Corona is a contagious disease – that is, you cannot fight it by denying it. And not by requiring special rules.

selfishness or community

Novak Djokovic is free not to get vaccinated. But then he has to deal with the consequences and have as little contact as possible. That means no games and no handshakes as long as the pandemic persists. Just because he’s world number one doesn’t decide whether he qualifies for entry. Laws apply. Even for top athletes. Equal treatment is a cultural glue, as well as how we can function as a community – beyond individual interests. The fact that Australia has implemented this central legal principle is a great moment for democracy.


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