Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said his government will not apply for travel permits to allow unvaccinated tennis players to compete at the Australian Open in the state after Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated they would be allowed into the country.
Morrison said earlier on Wednesday that unvaccinated players would be free to compete at the grand slam after undergoing a two-week Covid-19 quarantine provided that Victoria, which hosts the tournament in Melbourne, applied for permits for them.
Andrews said his state would make no such applications.
“On behalf of every vaccinated Victorian who has done the right thing, my government will not be applying for an exemption for any unvaccinated player,” he told reporters.
“If we don’t apply for an exemption, then no exemption will be granted and then the whole issue is basically resolved.”
Australia’s borders have been effectively sealed for 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, though authorities approve travel exemptions for special cases.
Victoria has been Australia’s hardest-hit state, with its capital Melbourne locked down six times. The sixth lockdown ended on Friday, but only for fully vaccinated adults.
Unvaccinated adults remain banned from pubs, restaurants, sporting events and other parts of the economy, and may be shut out until well into 2022.
Victoria’s position is a blow for the grand slam’s organizers Tennis Australia, who want a strong field for the tournament in January.
Some top players, including defending champion Novak Djokovic, have declined to disclose their vaccination status. Serbia’s world number one said last week he might not play at the tournament, “things being as they are”.
Morrison had earlier told the Seven Network that unvaccinated players would need to quarantine for two weeks.
“All the same rules have to apply to everyone,” he said.
“Whether you’re a grand slam winner, a prime minister or a business traveler, a student or whoever. Same rules.”
Morrison’s comments contradicted those of his immigration minister Alex Hawke, who said last week that tennis players and other athletes would have to be double vaccinated to enter the country.
Professional athletes in Victoria are under a vaccine mandate, which also covers coaches, officials, media and other staff involved in elite competition.
Andrews said tennis players should be held to the same standard as everyone else at the event.
“I’m not going to require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event, to be vaccinated while players aren’t,” he said.
Currently around 70% of the top 100 men and women tennis players are vaccinated.
If Djokovic does play at Melbourne Park he will be favorite to win a record 21st men’s grand slam singles title – moving him out of a tie with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.