Daniel Andrews' major admission in Australian Open vaccination saga
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has revealed Tennis Australia could have a final say in whether or not tennis players get medical exemptions to avoid the Australian Open's vaccination mandate.
Andrews has called on Tennis Australia to implement an independent review panel overseeing any applications for medical exemptions.
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In the latest twist to the Novak Djokovic saga, the World No.1 is believed to be considering applying for an exemption on medical grounds in order to play the Australian Open.
The Serbian star continues to refuse to reveal whether or not he is vaccinated - a condition for all players, fans and officials to enter Melbourne Park for the January 17-30 grand slam.
Just hours after Tennis Australia said it wouldn't be involved in the approval of any medical exemptions for players, Andrews on Thursday seemed to throw the ball back in TA's court.
"I'm briefed that TA are looking very closely at whether they might put in place a review mechanism with a panel of medical experts to review any exemptions that were granted and I fully support that," Andrews told reporters.
"If TA go down the review process to check that all of the exemptions were appropriate, then I think that would be a very good step for them to take.
“I think it is important that if Tennis Australia do move to a situation where they want to check the bona fides of any exemption – and I’m not talking about any individual – anyone who has an exemption, then that’s an appropriate safeguard.
“Everyone sitting on centre court will have to be double jabbed. Out of fairness to them, out of respect for so many Victorians, [with what] the vast majority of Victorians have done, we have to have confidence in these arrangements.
“Tennis Australia have a role in protecting the integrity of these arrangements.”
It remains very much unclear who exactly will be responsible for granting - or denying - any medical exemptions amid reports Djokovic is seeking one.
TA had thought it was the government's duty to consider any medical exemptions until Andrews' latest remarks muddied the waters further.
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TA chief and Open boss Craig Tiley earlier on Thursday said applications for an exemption from the vaccination mandate would be reviewed by an independent medical panel.
He said the requests were received anonymously, meaning an application by nine-time champion Djokovic wouldn't be treated differently to any other.
"There's an independent panel of medical specialists and they see a blind copy of the medical exemption request," Tiley told ABC News on Thursday.
"And it's very specific as to what is eligible or not, and then that goes through that expert panel and they will make a call.
"At this point, it's in the process of being established so no medical exemptions that have been granted at this point."
Tiley said there were clear ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) guidelines for an exemption that he considered "different hurdles to cross".
He said he wasn't privy to any medical condition that Djokovic may have that would meet the criteria.
"There's no loophole ... international tennis players have exactly the same conditions as everyone coming into Victoria or coming to Australia," Tiley said.
"There's no benefit provided to any one of them on any condition and in any circumstance and that's been made clear to them from the beginning.
"We now are in a position where over six weeks ago only 50 per cent of the tennis playing group globally were vaccinated and now it's more than 95 per cent."
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