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Djokovic Clarifies Movements, Australian Visa Saga Continues

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Novak Djokovic knew he’d tested positive for COVID-19 when he attended a newspaper interview and photo shoot at his tennis center in Serbia last month, saying Wednesday he made an “error of judgment” and should have immediately gone into isolation.

Djokovic made the admission when he moved to clarify “ongoing misinformation” about his movements after he tested positive last month. He also blamed “human error” by his support team for a mistake on the travel document he used a week ago to enter Australia, where his visa was revoked and then reinstated in a COVID-19 vaccination saga that has overshadowed the days leading up to the Australian Open.

A statement was posted on Djokovic’s social media accounts while the men’s tennis No. 1 was in Rod Laver Arena holding a practice session, his third on the tournament’s main court since being released from immigration detention.

The nine-time and defending Australian Open champion is in limbo before the year’s first tennis major starts next Monday, a week after he won a legal battle allowing him to stay in the country.

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But he still faces the prospect of deportation because he’s not vaccinated for COVID-19, a decision entirely at the discretion of Australia’s immigration minister if deemed to be in the public interest for health and safety reasons. Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his record-equaling 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Court documents detailing Djokovic’s positive test sparked speculation over the star player’s attendance at events in his native Serbia last month. Further questions also were raised about errors on his immigration form that could potentially result in the cancellation of his visa.

On the form, Djokovic said he had not traveled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia, despite being seen in Spain and Serbia in that two-week period.

Djokovic described recent commentary as “hurtful” and said he wanted to address it in the interest of “alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia.”

The 34-year-old Serb said he’d taken rapid tests that were negative and he was asymptomatic before he received his positive result from an approved PRC test he undertook out of an “abundance of caution” after attending a basketball game in Belgrade on Dec. 14.

He received the result late Dec. 17, he said, and scrapped all his commitments except the long-standing interview with L’Equipe.

“I felt obligated to go ahead … but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic said. “While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment.”

He addressed the travel declaration by saying it was submitted by his support team and “my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box.”

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he wrote. “The team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”

The decision could take a while, although the draw to determine brackets for the Australian Open is set to take place Thursday. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s office issued a statement saying Djokovic’s legal team had filed further documents against the the potential cancellation of his visa and added: “Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”

At issue is whether he has a valid exemption to rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.

Panels backed by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia approved his request for a medical exemption based on his having tested positive for the coronavirus in the past six months. The Australian Border Force rejected his exemption and canceled his visa, sending him into immigration detention for four nights before a judge in the Federal Circuit Court overturned the decision on procedural grounds.

He was among the 26 people who applied for a medical exemption, and Tennis Australia said only a “handful” were granted. Subsequent investigations resulted in two other people involved in the sport leaving the country.

There’s growing concern in the community, meanwhile, with COVID-19 cases surging.

Victoria state, whose capital Melbourne is hosting the Australian Open starting next week, reported 21 deaths Wednesday along with 40,127 new cases.

Australia-based lawyer Greg Barns, who is experienced in visa cases, told The Associated Press that if the immigration minister does take action, he could choose to simply cancel Djokovic’s visa or give the tennis star notice of his intention to cancel it.

Barns said Hawke has the “personal power” to cancel the visa without having to give written notice or a reasonable time for Djokovic to respond.

If Djokovic’s visa is canceled, his lawyers could go back to court to apply for an injunction that would prevent him from being forced to leave the country.

If the government does issue a notice of intent, Barns said it could give Djokovic up to nine days to respond, depending on when he receives it.

“That might be a way of giving Djokovic a chance in the tournament and then kicking him out at the end of that,” Barns said. “In my experience, it’s relatively rare for them to change their mind.”

Sydney-based immigration lawyer Simon Jeans said there’s “a lot of fudges” in the law and the immigration department would be taking its time to make sure any visa cancellation was “appeal-proof.”

“It’s not an easy task because if they cancel his visa and then Djokovic wins (an appeal) and he misses the opportunity to compete, he could make a claim against the department for the prize money and all his legal fees,” Jeans said.

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McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.

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Thursday is warming up Orlando, but the heat won’t stay for long

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A warming trend is rising in Central Florida, but another cold front is hot on its heels coming into the weekend.

Temperatures are approaching well above the average for January, with the high forecast for 79 degrees Thursday, the temperature low is predicted at 58, said Maureen McCann, Spectrum News 13 meteorologist.

A southwesterly wind is warming things up ahead of an approaching system thought to be bringing rain and cold temperatures to Central Florida, McCann said.

Thursday is not anticipated to have rain, but rain chances emerge Friday at 20% and Saturday at 40%. Following the rain, temperatures should drop, with Saturday’s high forecast for 65 degrees and the low at 48. That cold trend should remain in the five-day forecast through the rest of the weekend and into the start of the next work week.

Jpedersen@orlandosentinel.com

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Driver transported after crashing into fence in Hollywood

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HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) – A woman has been transported to the hospital after crashing her vehicle into a fence in Hollywood.

7SkyForce hovered over the scene where rescue crews could be seen carrying the woman away from the side of the road on a stretcher.

The crash happened along the eastbound lanes of Pines Boulevard near 68th Avenue, at around 5:45 a.m., Thursday.

The vehicle the woman was driving crashed into a nearby neighbor’s yard. There was apparently another vehicle involved in the crash.

The victim’s condition remains unknown.

7News spoke with the homeowner whose fence was destroyed. He said his son woke him up after hearing a loud crashing sound.

At around 6 a.m., his neighbor then called to see if he knew about the damage to his fence.

He said he was shocked but thankful his house wasn’t hit.

“I think the car that hit my house, she hit that black car then she ran into my fence and my neighbor’s fence and she damaged both of them,” he said. “Luckily nothing [else] happened because the concrete stopped her from going further.”

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Missouri highway patrol blasts out ‘Batman’ cell phone alert by mistake

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(CNN) — The Joker is not on the rampage in Missouri, but it looks like authorities there are ready for the “Batman” villain.

An emergency alert mistakenly sent to mobile devices Tuesday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol asked residents of Gotham City to be on the lookout for a purple/green 1978 Dodge 3700 GT. The sedan, with license plate “UKIDME,” sounds a lot like the cars used by the Joker’s goons in the 1989 Batman movie.

It turns out there is no Gotham City in Missouri, and the message was sent in error during a test — apparently by someone with an impressive knowledge of the vehicles used in the movie that pits characters played by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

“This was meant to be a test message, THERE WAS NO ALERT,” the law enforcement agency soon posted on social media. Similar errors by other public agencies sometimes have sparked real concern — and also gotten corrected quickly.

Missouri State Highway Patrol had been conducting “a routine test of Missouri’s Blue Alert system” when the message was sent to wireless devices around the state, the agency said in a news release.

“The Patrol regularly tests the Blue Alert system to ensure it works properly when needed. During the test, an option was incorrectly selected, allowing the message to be disseminated to the public,” the release said.

The Blue Alert system is designed to quickly spread information about “violent offenders who have killed, seriously injured, or pose an imminent and credible threat to law enforcement,” according to the highway patrol.

Last year, authorities in Chile mistakenly sent a tsunami evacuation warning following an earthquake. And in 2018, residents and tourists in Hawaii were terrified by a text warning of an incoming ballistic missile that turned out to be a false alarm.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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