Flight Centre’s boss has declared international travel could be up-and-running for Australians in 2021 – despite the nation’s medical chief declaring the borders would likely stay shut all year.
Graham Turner said the UK rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with Israel’s plan to inoculate its population by March, would mean Australians would have a good idea of the vaccine’s effectiveness by Easter.
‘We then need widespread vaccination to happen in Australia and that could be by late July. There should be no reason why international travel cannot resume once Australian travellers are widely vaccinated,’ he said on Wednesday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also called on the federal government to reconsider the long-term ban on international travel.
The government has revealed there is a review in place for travel to Pacific Island nations and discussions are underway to open travel to New Zealand
International border were shut to Australians on March 10 last year (pictured: A woman at Sydney Airport (pictured) in December)
Australians returning from overseas are required to hotel quarantine at their own expense for 14 days (pictured: a man on the way to hotel quarantine in Sydney on January 8)
‘There is no reason why we shouldn’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months,’ Ms Berejiklian told SMH on Wednesday.
Australia’s international borders were closed on March 20 last year in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.
A quarantine system was introduced for returning travellers requiring them to spend 14 days in isolation in an major city hotel at their own expense before being allowed back into the community.
The system has been successful in preventing overseas cases of Covid spreading in Australia, however, huge delays have also been caused for Australians overseas who want to return home – with thousands still stranded.
The NSW premier wants to see a travel bubble between Australia and Pacific nations this year
The government is already in discussion with New Zealand (pictured is Queenstown) about allowing travel between the countries
Mr Turner and Ms Berejiklian’s bold claims have been tempered by others who have claimed international travel would not resume until at least 2022.
Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Tuesday international travel would be one of the last restrictions to be lifted.
He warned Australia would need to be very cautious about resuming international travel given our island continent’s ‘envious position’ compared to many other countries.
He did add, however, that there was a review in place for Pacific travel and ‘close discussions’ on travel were being held with New Zealand.
Currently Australia has a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand – allowing those across the Tasman to travel to our shores.
There has also been a travel exemption granted for some Pacific Island nations for citizens to work on farms in the country.
Fiji (pictured) could be open for travel to Australians this year once a vaccine is rolled out
The population also does not seem to be confident of international border rules being eased soon.
The number of passports issued to Australians in 2020 plunged by more than 50 per cent from the previous year from 2.2million in 2019 to just 882,622.
Australian National University Medical School Professor Peter Collignon said the vaccine was not a ‘silver-bullet’.
‘We are not really in a position to relax what we do until most the world is vaccinated and, realistically, that is not going to happen for another year or even two or three years.’ he said.
Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy also said on Monday that Australia’s international borders will probably remain closed for most of this year,
The professor said ‘substantial border restrictions’ will continue throughout 2021 and quarantine of returning Australians will be in place for ‘some time’.
Australia has been one of few countries in the world to ban its citizens from going overseas since March.
Australia’s borders will probably remain closed for most of the year, Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said on Monday. Pictured: A domestic flight from Sydney to Adelaide in September 2020
Domestic passengers wait in line to check in at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith domestic airport in December
Asked if the borders would re-open this year, Professor Murphy told the ABC: ‘It is a big open question. I think the answer is probably no.
‘We will go most of this year with still-substantial border restrictions, even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus and it is likely that quarantine will continue for some time.’
Professor Murphy said there was still too much uncertainty to accurately predict when it would be safe to open the country to overseas arrivals.
‘One of the things about this virus is that the rule book has been made up as we go. I was very careful early on, I remember saying this to the Prime Minister, I don’t want to predict more than two or three months ahead,’ he said.
‘The world is changing so at the moment we have this light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccine, so we will go as safely and as fast as we can to get the population vaccinated and we will look at what happens then.’
Australia is due to start vaccinating the population next month. The vaccines available are proved to reduced illness and death but were not proven to stop the virus spreading.
Prime Minster Scott Morrison has said he wants to open Australia to ‘green-lane’ countries where virus levels are low – but so far only New Zealand has met the very high standard.
Outgoing travel is forbidden until at least March 17, 2021 and the ban is likely to be extended.
Passengers waiting to check in for their flight in the departures area of the Sydney International Airport
Transport Minister Michael McCormack said last month: ‘International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians.’
The government’s vaccine policy paper says proof of vaccination may be required to leave or enter the country.
In the October budget papers, the government said inbound and outbound international travel is ‘expected to remain low through the latter part of 2021, after which a gradual recovery in international tourism is also assumed to occur.’
Mr Morrison has previously flagged the possibility that people entering from lower risk countries may be able to isolate at home instead of in hotels.
‘Home quarantine can play a role in the future,’ he said in September.
Last week Professor Peter Collignon of the Australian National University said ‘some form’ of quarantine could be required even after Australia’s population has been vaccinated.
This is because the vaccines are 70 to 95 per cent effective, meaning millions of Aussies will still be at risk of catching the deadly disease.
Professor Collignon said it would not be safe for Australia to simply remove quarantine requirements once the vaccine is rolled out around the world.
‘If you look at people coming into Australia it’s one or two per cent of returned travellers who have the virus when they land,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘And if you have a vaccine that is 90 per cent effective it means that instead of one or two in 100 we’ll have one or two in a thousand – but that’s still a very high risk of virus. That’s as much as Melbourne was exposed to at the height of the winter outbreak.
‘Until numbers come down around the world to really low levels – and on the basis that we want to keep numbers really low in Australia – I can’t see how we’re not going to have some sort of quarantine, whether at home or in a hotel, for a couple of weeks after you get back.’
Asked when it would be safe to re-introduce quarantine-free travel from the UK and other high-risk countries, Professor Collignon said: ‘My best guess is half way through the middle of next year.’
Australians have been banned from leaving the country since March. Pictured: Tourists in Bali
Source: Daily Mail Australia | World News