Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed today after a national cabinet meeting that planning is underway to be able to “Open up Australia more than we are now”.
There are now plans underway to open Australia’s international border beyond only New Zealand as announced this week by New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern.
“The message from national cabinet is we want to open up more, we want to do it safely,” Mr Morrison said after meeting with his state and territory counterparts.
“What we are asking the medical expert panel to tell us is what are the thresholds that we need to be able to meet to do things such as the following — Australians who are vaccinated being able to travel overseas and return to Australia and not go into hotel quarantine, potentially go into hotel quarantine or not even into home quarantine at all.” He said.
“That will be a major change and to the extent to which Australians returning from overseas who have had recognised vaccines also approved here in Australia with appropriate accreditation can return to Australia on that same basis and enable potentially down the track travel from low-risk countries with similar vaccine arrangements,
“No one is saying that any of those things are coming in today but what we are working and planning for and have tasked the medical professionals who advise us on is what are the marks we have to meet to enable us to start opening up Australia more than we are now.”
Mr Morrison said the success of the New Zealand travel bubble starting from April 19 would give Australia greater confidence in the coming months.
“I have mentioned Singapore before as an obvious next choice but at this stage, it is still some time away.
“The message from National Cabinet is we want to open up more, we want to do it safely, we want to ease restrictions, we want to do that in a consistent way across the country and we want to do that because we know we are not just managing the health but we are managing the economics as well for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing and this is going to be an ongoing and increasing focus of the National Cabinet.”
The big challenge, of course, is that reopening Australia’s border rests on the vaccination program, which was originally due for completion by October but now looks likely to stretch well into next year.
Business travellers and international students will be among the first overseas visitors to arrive in Australia when borders reopen, leaving tourists last in the queue.
International travel has suffered a major setback in recent days, with health advice for people aged under 50 to avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine set to significantly delay the nation’s rollout.
Tourism and Trade Minister Dan Tehan said it could be “very much the case” that holiday-makers are among the last visitors to return in a staggered lifting of restrictions.
“We’ve obviously got to prioritise what’s best for our nation both economically and most importantly on the health front,” he told Sky News on Friday.
“That will continue to be what informs us, so protecting lives and livelihoods.”
The Qantas Group announced in February that they would be resuming international flights from November 2021, though the start date would need to align with the expected timeframe for Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout to be effectively complete.
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