Boris Johnson has backed the Australian government in its decision to refuse entry to the tennis star Novak Djokovic because he is unvaccinated, as Downing Street urged sports stars to accept a jab.
The Prime Minister said he shared the view of the “friendly” Australians, who have told Mr Djokovic he must return to Europe and cannot participate in the Australian Open.
The tennis player had travelled to Australia on the understanding he had a medical exemption to the vaccine rules, because he had been infected with Covid-19 in the last six months.
However, officials later said the exemption did not apply.
Mr Djokovic is now staying in an immigration detention centre in Melbourne, awaiting the outcome of a legal appeal to the cancellation of his visa.
His fans have gathered outside the hotel and argue he should be allowed to play. Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, has blamed the situation on an administrative mix-up in the state of Victoria.
Asked about the controversy, Mr Johnson said on Thursday: "It’s a matter for Australia and their friendly government.
"That’s a matter for them but clearly I share very strongly their view of the Australian authorities that it’s a very good idea to get vaccinated."
Plea to get Covid vaccine
His response came as Downing Street called for professional sportsmen to get vaccinated.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to comment on specific cases but reissued a call for everyone to get Covid jabs.
Asked about concerns sportsmen are not getting vaccines, the spokesman said: “We absolutely think that everyone should get vaccinated and get boosted, regardless of profession.”
Pushed further on the developments in Mr Djokovic’s case, the spokesman declined to comment directly on the incident but noted UK government scientists have addressed concerns from professional sportsmen.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do absolutely want to see everyone get vaccinated.
"We know from a raft of evidence that it is completely safe regardless of your profession and that everyone should come forward, both to benefit themselves and to benefit others.”
Dijana Djokovic, Mr Djokovic’s mother, said her son had been subject to a “political attack”.
“He is a scapegoat,” she added.