Djokovic could play in France under latest vaccine rules

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A protester holds a sign reading ‘No to the vaccination pass’ in opposition to the vaccination pass and vaccinations to protect against COVID-19 during a rally in Paris, France, Saturday, January 22, 2022. ( AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

PA

Top-ranked player Novak Djokovic could be allowed to defend his Roland-Garros title under the latest COVID-19 rules adopted by the French government, even if he is still not vaccinated at the start of the Grand Slam on clay in May.

Djokovic was expelled from Australia and banned from playing at the Australian Open this month for not following the country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination rules.

It first emerged that the Serbian tennis star would also not be welcome at Roland Garros under a new law designed to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums, restaurants, bars and other public places.

As questions quickly arose over Djokovic’s status in France following his deportation from Australia, Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu previously said that as soon as the law is passed the country’s vaccination pass will become compulsory for entry. in stadiums, theaters or exhibitions, “for all spectators, practitioners, French or foreign professionals.”

But the vaccination pass is not limited to vaccination.

Under the law which came into force on Monday, anyone who has proof that they have tested positive in the previous six months is exempt from presenting a vaccination pass. This suggests Djokovic could play at Roland Garros in May and June, the next Grand Slam tournament, as he said he tested positive in mid-December.

The French sports ministry was not immediately available to answer questions from The Associated Press about Djokovic.

French Open organizers previously said it was too early to comment as virus restrictions may change by May depending on the virus situation.

Djokovic’s side also declined to comment on Monday. Djokovic said earlier that he won’t make any public statements until after the Australian Open.

Café owners and customers in Paris have widely welcomed the new law, which is at the heart of the government’s anti-virus strategy.

“Personally, it reassures me in the sense that I know the people I have around me,” said Parisian Charles Tuile. “You want to be in a place where you can be health-safe. And if you see the waiter checking vaccine passes and even ID cards, then that’s reassuring in a lot of ways .

France records the highest daily number of coronavirus infections ever recorded in Europe, and hospitals continue to fill with patients infected with the virus, even if the number of people in intensive care units has fallen in recent days .

The government imposed few other restrictions amid the surge in the omicron variant, focusing instead on the vaccination pass, approved by Parliament and the French Constitutional Council last week.

Critics question whether the pass will make much of a difference in a country where 94% of French adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and scattered groups staged protests against the new law on Saturday. The French government hopes to protect the most vulnerable and reduce pressure on crowded intensive care units, where most patients are unvaccinated.

Since last summer, France has required a “health pass” to go to any cafe, museum, cinema or take a regional train or domestic flight. But until Monday, unvaccinated people could activate the pass by getting a recent negative test. The new pass only works for people who are fully vaccinated and those who have recently recovered from the virus.

“For me it’s not a problem (to show ID) but I can imagine the kind of downward spiral it could trigger – it’s like racial profiling,” said Tania Chauvin, 31. years, while she ate in a Parisian restaurant.

France, meanwhile, on Monday opened access to booster injections to 12-17 year olds.

Djokovic’s Australian saga began when he was granted an exemption from strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and the tournament organizer in order to play at the Australian Open based on documents he provided showing that he had recently had COVID-19. He received a visa to enter the country through an automated process. But when he arrived, border officials said the exemption was invalid and decided to deport him.

Ultimately, Australian authorities revoked Djokovic’s visa, saying his presence could stoke anti-vaccine sentiment and that deporting him was necessary to keep Australians safe. He was sent off a day before the start of the tournament in Melbourne.

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Alex Turnbull in Paris contributed to this report. Petrequin brought from Brussels

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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