Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt sent the chief executive of Tennis Australia a letter clearly stating that people who had tested positive to Covid-19 within six months of wanting to enter the country were not deemed fully vaccinated, it has been revealed.
The letter, dated November 29, was sent more than a month before Novak Djokovic was today denied a visa upon arrival to Melbourne Airport due to not having a valid medical exemption for being unvaccinated.
The world No. 1 has had Covid within the past six months and had posted on Instagram on Tuesday that he was participating in the tournament with an "exemption permission", but didn't elaborate further. Djokovic was believed to be relying only on the fact that he had been infected in that timeframe.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison then revealed today that there had never been a medical exemption in place and the tennis star's evidence for one was "insufficient".
A copy of Hunt's letter, provided to NCA NewsWire, references questions asked by CEO Craig Tiley about unvaccinated people wanting to travel for the 2022 Australian Open.
"The Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI (the national advisory body on vaccines) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia," Hunt wrote.
"In relation to your specific questions, I can confirm that people who contracted Covid-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved or recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated."
The letter also states that it is up to the individual to ensure they meet the requirements for travel to Australia.
Another letter sent on 18 November to Tiley from the federal health department also states that past infection to Covid was not a "contraindication to vaccination".
"ATAGI notes that natural immunity from past infection is recognised in several countries, however ATAGI also notes the challenge of confirming past infection and uncertainties of the duration of protection," the letter from National Covid Taskforce First Assistant Secretary Lisa Schofield says.
"While evidence suggests that past infection reduces the risk of reinfection for at least six months (and thus may be regarded as a temporary exemption for vaccination for a maximum of six months), ATAGI advises that two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine (or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) according to the recommended schedule is required in order to be considered fully vaccinated."
Tiley has previously said that Djokovic had been granted an exemption under ATAGI guidelines and it was up to the tennis star to disclose the reason he had been given one.
"If there are several reasons why they are unable to be vaccinated, ATAGI have set out very clear guidelines that have to be followed in order for you to be added to the Australian Immunisation Register and if you are added to that register, you are then exempt from a vaccination and can come into Australia," he told the Today Show yesterday.
"For tennis players, it was a process that was above and beyond what anyone coming to Australia would have experienced."
Hunt's letter advised that the Australian Immunisation Register was applicable for domestic purposes only and did not apply in the context of international borders.