BRISBANE, Australia — ARIA Award-winning classical crossover singer Anthony Callea has contracted COVID-19. But he still summoned the energy to fire an ace at Australia’s government over its “shambolic” handling of the pandemic and for the bizarre back-and-forth with Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic that, he says, amounted to a “slap in the face” for the millions who are doing the right thing.
Callea, the 39-year-old Australian Idol alum, opened up on his poor condition which began early Sunday (Jan. 2), when he woke in “the most excruciating pain.” A positive result was later confirmed, though his husband, Australian actor Tim Campbell, tested negative.
“My head felt like it was about to combust, my throat, well I have never felt pain in my throat like that before, it was like someone stabbing me right in the throat,” he explained. “My chest was tight, I felt as though I was about to burst my ear drums and my body overall just felt like it was shutting down.”
The days since “have been really scary. I’ve never felt like this before in my life,” he explained.
There was insult heaped on that injury. Callea called out the controversial decision to allow Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open champion, and one of sport’s most outspoken anti-vaxxers, to compete at the tournament.
“It’s absolute tone deafness and double standards from Tennis Aus, and the Vic Gov, along with the Federal Gov that initially are responsible for international borders,” Callea wrote on Instagram.
With the first “major” tennis tournament of the year just weeks away, the big story in the game in on whether the athlete would get the jab, and if not, how would that play out.
The past 24 hours or so has seen a serve-and-volley game no-one saw coming. First, organizers of the Melbourne tournament announced Djokovic’s participation based on a “medical exemption,” a situation confirmed by the Victorian government, led by Labour’s Dan Andrews.
It didn’t play out that way for Djokovic, who arrived at the border only to have his visa canceled, a development that’s created tensions with Serbia’s leaders. Djokovic is expected to spend Thursday night in immigration detention after his matter was adjourned until Monday.
It’s summertime in Australia right now, a period that in a typical year would be a hotbed for music festivals and concerts. This is not a typical summer. Quarantine stays are enforced for visitors to these parts, some borders remain restricted even for interstate travel, and the Omicron variant is surging across a country where the vast majority of the population is double-vaccinated and roughly 20% are eligible for boosters.
Callea has joined a chorus of homegrown artists who’ve slammed the Liberal Party leadership in Canberra and, in particular, the prime minister’s refusal to make rapid antigen tests (RATs) free-of-charge, instead opting to allow the private market to “go and stock their shelves with confidence that they won’t be undercut by the government.”
One-time ARIA best female artist winner Clare Bowditch detailed the “increasingly less detailed” text messages from the Department of Health and Human Services, while award-winning rapper Illy criticized restrictions in Victoria which have hurt “hospitality and entertainment” with “nowhere near proper support.”
The COVID crisis is “real,” Callea points out. “If only our Government would do the right thing by others and it’s people and manage this shambolic mess,” he writes. “I could go on and on but I don’t have the energy.”
Callea finished runner-up in the 2004 run of Australian Idol and went on to enjoy a string of chart hits, including “The Prayer,” which led the national sales chart for five weeks. He’s among a select group of male solo Australian artists, including John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes and Keith Urban, who’ve had three of more albums debut at No. 1 on the national ARIA chart.