A slim hope Australian international travel could resume sooner
by Anna Gorna
With the roll-out of vaccine programs in many countries, hopes are rising for travellers desperate to visit Australia and those wishing to visit families or to emigrate. With the Australian borders closed since March 2020, very few people are allowed to enter the country. The Skilled migration program appears to have stagnated with many forever losing their chances to emigrate to Australia.
During the press conference held on 5th February 2021, the Australian Prime Minister and the Health Secretary stressed that further evidence on vaccine efficiency is needed before Australia lifts travel restrictions, but there are hope the borders might re-open sooner. Not so long ago, ministers hinted the borders might remain closed throughout 2021.
The return of Australian residents from overseas is the priority. From 15th February, the caps will return to the previous levels for New South Wales and Queensland. Other States are expected to increase their flight intake in the coming weeks.
The Prime Minister stressed that the Australian borders are actually shut and ’’ No-one can just come to Australia’’. To be allowed travel to Australia, you need to be an Australian Citizen or permanent resident or have a particular exemption, such as being an immediate family member (spouse or child) or fall under a specific exempt category as specified by the Australian Border Force. All arrivals must quarantine in a designated location at their own expense.
Australia is seeing a positive trend in new infection rates dropping with only 6 new cases identified in the last 24 hours. The ‘No locally acquired” cases trend continues and there are only 9 people with Covid-19 in hospitals and none in intensive care units. There hasn’t been a death in Australia from COVID for some months. Australia is in a very different situation to other countries, which see thousands of daily deaths, and this is thanks to the strict border controls and border controls.
As the vaccination rates increase, other quarantine options might be considered, including home quarantine and on-farm, the later might work well for seasonal workers. At the moment, the two-week quarantine in hotels has been so successful up till now and remains regardless of vaccination procedures. More data is needed on the effectiveness of vaccines, particularly on decreasing risks of transmission.
If Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines prove effective at preventing transmission, there might be some hope that the international borders will re-open sooner than expected.
Professor Murphy, the Health Department Secretary stated, “So if, as we suspect, these vaccines are effective at preventing transmission, the sooner we get the population vaccinated, the sooner people stand up. Not only will they be protected, but then we will get on this path towards good herd immunity and that will speed up the return to international travel,”
Nevertheless, ministers agreed it is impossible to put a time-frame on when the international travels might resume, and we will continue to monitor the situation and issue updates.