The Home Affairs Minister says no one is exempt from the country’s “strict” border rules hours after tennis star Novak Djokovic confirmed he was travelling to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Djokovic said last night he had been granted a medical exemption to compete in the competition, which begins on January 17. He has previously refused to reveal his COVID-19 vaccination status.

However, this afternoon the federal Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a strongly-worded statement, saying the Commonwealth enforces the border, not the state government.

Novak Djokovic is one his way to Australia after being granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open. (Getty)

“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our strict border requirements,” Ms Andrews said.

“While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border.

“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.

“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.

“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”

She said any quarantine arrangements are a matter for the Victorian Government.

Earlier, Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government attempted to calm public anger and confusion, insisting Djokovic had not been afforded any special treatment.

Novak Djokovic announced last night he was on his way to play in the Australian Open. (Instagram)

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said at a press conference this morning Djokovic was one of 26 applicants who applied for a medical exemption and one of a handful granted.

Although Tennis Australia could not legally reveal why Djokovic had been given the exemption, Australian Technical Advisory Group On Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines were clear on which possible circumstances it would be approved under, Mr Tiley said.

These narrow circumstances included having a previous anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine, having just had major surgery and having had COVID-9 during the past six months, he added.

Mr Tiley said names were redacted during the exemption process ensuring no officials knew they were assessing Djokovic’s application.

“The process has been very clear and we completely understand and empathise with first of all some people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements in the past around vaccination,” he said.

“However, it’s ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition if he chooses to do that and the reason why he received his exemption.”

The decision has provoked a heated reaction from Australians online, especially since Melbourne endured months of strict lockdowns and harsh travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

Tennis Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Carolyn Broderick said she understood what a challenging time the last couple of years had been for Melburnians and that some people would find the exemption granted to Djokovic “frustrating and upsetting”.

However, Dr Broderick said the tennis star did not receive special treatment.

“I want to make absolutely clear that as has been the case the whole time no-one is or will be receiving special treatment because of who they are or what they have achieved professionally,” she said.

Victoria’s Acting minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Jaala Pulford, said while the news of Djokovic’s medical exemption would be “maddening” to some people, the process was robust and the same system applied to everyone.

Mr Tiley said while Tennis Australia was not able to detail the reason Djokovic was given the exemption, he would be urging the tennis star to speak be openly about it.

“It’s ultimately up to him,” Mr Tiley said.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic serves during their Davis Cup semi-final match.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic serves during their Davis Cup semi-final match. (AP)

“I will encourage him to talk to the community about it because we have been through a very tough period over the last past two years and we would appreciate some answers to that.”

When asked about controversy, opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for a “full and transparent explanation” given spectators, officials and other players needed to be vaccinated.

“This exemption needs to be explained, it makes absolutely no sense to me,” Mr Albanese said.

“I think there needs to be a proper explanation and I haven’t heard one yet.”

A sign on display advises the public to the requirements of face masks.

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Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said she was reluctant to comment on “a particular tennis individual”, but wanted to make it clear the decision to allow Novak Djokovic to play in the Australian Open was made nationally, and that doctors had reviewed the decision.

“It was through the Commonwealth ATAGI process that cleared Novak Djokovic to enter the country,” she said.

Ms Allan said it was “up to Novak Djokovic to explain to the Victorian community… the motivations behind his actions” in coming to Australia

She said the State Government would expect Djokovic to give a public explanation to the community once he arrived.

Source: 9News

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