The World Health Organisation has said vaccine mandates should be a “last resort” as the fallout from the Novak Djokovic saga continues.

The comments come after Djokovic attempted to enter Australia to play tennis without proof of being vaccinated against Covid.

All eyes are now on Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on whether the world tennis number one will be allowed to stay in the country for the Australian Open.

But WHO’s health emergencies programme executive director Dr Mike Ryan has warned against hard-line stances like Australia’s position on vaccine mandates.

“We see mandates as a last resort … in the face of a large epidemic,” he told Nine Newspapers.

“So yes, there are circumstances in which vaccine mandates are supported by WHO but, again, it is subjected to the basic principle that the best way to get people vaccinated is to inform them, to educate, to have a dialogue and to address people’s genuine concerns.

“We always ask that those mandates be clear, be explicit, be time-limited and at the same time … governments continue to explain to people why they’re doing things and continue to try and convince people of the benefits of the vaccine rather than reverting to mandates as a single approach.”

Australia has introduced rules that require people to be vaccinated if they want to attend major events, restaurants and other facilities. They are also required in some professions like health and medicine.

WHO director of immunisation vaccines and biologicals Katherine O’Brien said people should not be barred from entering countries due to their vaccination status.

She added this was due to not everyone having the same access to vaccines.

“Free and full access to safe and effective vaccines is the absolute precondition before a mandate is made and that is a grounding principle,” she told Nine Newspapers.

“It’s also a grounding reason why there is not a requirement from WHO, a recommendation around any requirement for crossing international borders, although the status of somebody’s vaccination may be considered with respect to other conditions that may be imposed on people through the course of their travel.”

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