Why can unvaccinated swimmers compete in Australia when Novak Djokovic couldn’t?

Australia’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions last month paved the way for unvaccinated American swimmers Michael Andrew to take part in the 2022 Duel in the Pool, which begins Friday morning (Thursday night in the US) in Sydney.

At the beginning of January this year, at that time the top-ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia after landing in the country for the 2022 Australian Open. The Serb’s visa was invalidated due to his vaccination status. However, the Australian government recently changed policy in July and no longer requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to enter the country.

“The Australian Government is making decisions on Covid-related issues after considering the latest medical advice.” said Mark Butler, Australia’s Minister for Health and Elderly Care. “The Chief Medical Officer has advised that travelers are no longer required to provide their vaccination status as part of our Covid management. Unvaccinated Australians, as well as certain categories of visa holders, have been able to travel to Australia for some time. We will continue to respond to medical advice as needed.”

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) followed suit by relaxing social distancing and quarantine rules and issuing the same recommendations regardless of vaccination status. Currently, these rules only apply to US citizens, but new guidelines for international travelers are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. With the US Open just 11 days away and tournament officials already making it clear they will not be offering special treatment, Djokovic’s last hopes of playing the last tennis major of the year lie in a last-minute CDC update.

“Previous infections and vaccinations provide some protection against serious illness and so it really makes the most sense not to differentiate with our guidance or our recommendations based on vaccination status at this time.” said CDC scientist Dr. Greta Massetti. “In the coming weeks, the CDC will work to develop standalone guides, e.g. for healthcare facilities, facilities for higher risk gatherings and travel, to adapt to today’s update.”

Andrew, meanwhile, has remained steadfast in his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Before the Tokyo Olympics last summer he has told reporters that he was concerned about missing training time due to a possible reaction to the vaccine. Andrew caused more controversy in Tokyo when he refused to wear a mask in the mixed zone. The 23-year-old later said he received “death threats” and “bad messages” in response.

“Everybody went through the mixed zone without a mask,” Andrew said on the Inside with Brett Hawke podcast in January. “I was so targeted because I was and what I said.

“Vaccinated athletes still test as many, if not more, positive tests than unvaccinated ones,” he added. “I’m just realizing that I don’t really need it. It’s not that I’m against every vaccine; I’ve had vaccinations since I was young.”

It is unknown how many other members of the US team competing in the Duel in the Pool are unvaccinated.

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