Australia’s border is set to remain closed until the END of 2022 as government warns it ‘won’t be flung open’ even after mass vaccinations
- Australians have been banned from leaving the country since March 2020
- Last year government predicted the borders would be open in October 2021
- But that timeline has been pushed back due to slow pace of vaccine rollout
- Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said borders won’t be ‘flung open next year’
Australia’s international borders will not be ‘flung open next year,’ finance minister Simon Birmingham said today.
Aussies have been banned from leaving the country since March 2020 and only citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to enter under some of the strictest coronavirus border rules in the world.
Last year the government predicted the international borders would be open in October 2021 after the whole adult population has been offered a vaccination – but this timeline will be pushed back because of the slow jab rollout and uncertainty around new variants and the effectiveness of vaccines.
Australia’s international borders will not be ‘flung open next year,’ finance minister Simon Birmingham has said. Pictured: A Covid tester at Bondi Beach on Wednesday
In an interview with The Australian ahead of Tuesday’s budget, Mr Birmingham said: ‘We recognise that if Australians want to be kept safe and secure… and given uncertainties that exist not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of Covid, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness, these are all consideration that mean we won’t be seeing borders flung open at the start of next year with great ease.’
The minister warned the world was facing greater uncertainty than a few months ago, largely due to a surge in cases and deaths and new mutant strains, which are more infections than original Covid-19, in India.
‘The ferocity of recent Covid outbreaks, the uncertainty in many countries around vaccine rollouts all create an environment in which, although Australia’s enjoying very high levels of business and consumer confidence, there’s a fragility that underpins all of that,’ he said.
His warning is a hammer blow to millions of Australians who have not been able to see family members overseas for more than a year.
Earlier this month, Trade Minister Dan Tehan revealed the government will take a ‘systematic’ approach to opening the borders which will see travels bubbles set up with individual nations.
‘Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam have all been mentioned as potentials in that area,’ he said, without giving any dates for when bubbles may start.
Australia has had a two-way travel bubble with New Zealand since April 18.
As of Tuesday night, Australia had rolled out just 2,405,378 vaccines – well short of the government’s target of 4 million by the end of March.
In a speech at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will insist that he has no desire to open the international borders in a hurry.
‘[This] will be a budget that continues to be framed by the brutal reality of the global pandemic,’ he will say.
‘We cannot put it at risk, or go with those who would take us in a different direction.’
Mr Morrison on Wednesday said the country’s tough stance on borders had kept Australia safe.
The nation has only suffered 22,399 locally acquired cases and 901 deaths.
Last week direct commercial flights from India were banned as the nation of 1.4 billion battled a surge in illnesses and death, with more than 350,000 cases per day.
Chartered rescue flights were suspended until May 15 after the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin suffered an explosion of cases among returned travellers from India.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Townsville, Mr Morrison said the travel ban was working to keep Australians safe.
‘The pause will be in place until May 15, as we said, and that pause is already working,’ he said.
‘This is enabling us to get on the right foot to restore repatriation flights and we are making good progress to that.
‘We are starting to see, as a result of the pause, the results of cases at Howard Spring is coming down – we have more of a distance to travel there – but it is working.’
Relatives and family members carry the dead body of a Covid-19 victim for a cremation at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium, on the banks of the Yamuna river in New Delhi in the early hours of Thursday
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