Novak Djokovic says he remains unvaccinated but does not want to be associated with anti-vaxxers, as he revealed he is prepared to miss future tournaments.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” the Serbian tennis star told the BBC when asked if he would sacrifice participating in competitions like the upcoming Wimbledon and French Open.
“I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them.”
The world’s top male tennis player breaking silence over his vaccine status and rejection from Australia is the major coronavirus-related headline from around the world.
Locally, another person in a position of power is making news for refusing to reveal their vaccination status.
And it looks like Australians will soon find out when one final state border will open.
Later on Wednesday, expect the spotlight to be back on the COVID situation inside nursing homes.
Officials from the department of health, along with Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston and NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds, are due to front a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra.
They will be questioned on health services, including aged care services, immunisation and the healthcare workforce.
Now to the numbers: There were a further 50 COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, with 20 in Victoria, 16 in NSW, 10 in Queensland and four in SA.
There were 23,817 infections and both NSW and Victoria had more than 8000 cases, Queensland had 5286, 1138 in SA, 513 in Tasmania and 455 in the ACT.
Here’s the top headlines to bring you up to speed on Wednesday morning.
Djokovic opens up
Speaking at length for the first time since being deported from Australia, Novak Djokovic sat down with the BBC on Tuesday (local time) to explain why he has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, even though he supports vaccines.
Interviewer Amol Rajan asked: “Have you received any vaccination against COVID?”
Djokovic answered: “I have not.”
Why hasn’t he been vaccinated?
“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus…vaccination is probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet…and I fully respect that.”
“I’ve always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body,”
“It’s really the principle of understanding what is wrong and what is right for you.
“Me as an elite professional athlete, I’ve always carefully reviewed, assessed everything that comes in from supplements, food, the water that I drink, sports drinks, anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.
“Based on all the informations that I got I decided not to take the vaccine as of today.”
As of today?
“Yes. I keep my mind open. Because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID.”
He also distanced himself from the anti-vaccination movement, despite being deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open last month amid concerns about his vaccine status.
The 20-time grand slam winner said he had no chance to explain himself during the legal process that played out in Melbourne before his deportation.
“I have never said I’m part of that movement,” he said.
“It’s really unfortunate that there has been this kind of misconception and wrong conclusion based upon something that I completely disagree with.”
Djokovic was asked whether he was prepared to forego the chance to be the “greatest player that ever picked up a racquet” because “you feel so strongly about this jab”.
He said it was a price he was willing to pay, “because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title.”
“I’m trying to be in tune with my body,” Djokovic said.”
He added: “I understand the consequences of my decision.
“I understand that not being vaccinated today, you know, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment.”
The 20-time major champion will return to competitive action at an ATP tournament in Dubai next week for the first time since he was deported ahead of the Australian Open, the year’s first tennis grand slam.
Another win at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic has won nine titles, could have taken him to a men’s record 21 major wins.
But instead it was his long-time rival Rafael Nadal who nudged ahead by lifting the trophy.
MP suspended over vaccine status
A fringe Western Australian MP has been suspended from attending state parliament after failing to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
Legalise Cannabis MP Sophia Moermond was forced to leave the Legislative Council chamber on Tuesday after the McGowan government used the first sitting day to pass a motion requiring members to provide evidence of their vaccination status.
Upper house MPs were required to provide proof of having had their first and second doses by January 31 and proof of having had their booster by May 6.
They were able to alternatively provide evidence of a valid medical exemption.
During debate, Ms Moermond – who refused to disclose her vaccination status – claimed she was being personally targeted by the motion.
“I am not a danger to you. And to think I am because you are unaware of my vaccination status is ignorant,” she said.
Several other non-government MPs, who were nonetheless able to retain their seats, spoke out against the motion, including Liberal MP Nick Goiran.
“I support vaccination. I also support the right of individuals to medical privacy,” he said.
Labor’s upper house leader Sue Ellery rejected suggestions the government was using its dominant numbers to personally target rival MPs.
“There is no mandatory vaccination. There are rules surrounding the consequences for people who choose not to be vaccinated,” she said.
“No one is forcing you to inject anything into your body.”
WA border opening plan
Australia’s hermit state could soon rejoin the nation after WA Premier Mark McGowan flagged an announcement on the reopening date of the state’s hard border is on the way.
Mr McGowan said an announcement about when the state’s hard border would ease would be made by the end of the month.
The state was supposed to reopen to the rest of Australia on February 5 but was delayed because of the Omicron outbreaks in eastern states.
It was also delayed to allow more time to increase the booster dose rate in the state, which was lagging behind the rest of the country.
WA’s booster rate has since doubled to about 52 per cent and is on course to surpass 80 per cent sometime next month.
Liberal senator James Patterson said the WA government’s vaccine mandate for politicians was “bizarre”.
“I’m less concerned about the MPs themselves, I’m concerned about their constituents who go unrepresented in their state parliament, not have their voice heard,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
“West Australia’s not the only state parliament to have done this, Victoria has done this as well, and I just find it very difficult to justify or understand.”