The human biosecurity period has been extended for two months and with it, Australia’s cruise ban.
The arrangements, which have been in place since 18 March 2020, require Australians to undertake testing and mask-wearing for international flights, restrict travel to high-risk countries, restrict travel for unvaccinated people and bar the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said last month that he expected the cruise ban to be lifted before Christmas, however, the restrictions will now remain in place until at least 17 February 2022.
However, announcing the extension on Friday, Hunt said the cruise aspects of the order will be reviewed monthly.
“Continuation of these arrangement will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the Government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant,” Hunt said.
“The government continues to work constructively with the cruise ship industry, with whom we remain actively engaged alongside state and territory governments to enable a phased resumption of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice.
“As part of this work, the government will continually review, on a monthly basis, whether the current restrictions on cruise ships can be safely lifted or amended.”
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) managing director for Australasia Joel Katz said the extension was “a devastating blow” for thousands of workers.
“The suspension of cruising has been devastating for the 18,000 Australians who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers,” Katz said.
“In other countries close to five million people have already sailed successfully under the cruise industry’s extensive new health protocols. We need federal and state governments to use the coming weeks for genuine discussions with the cruise industry so we can plan a similar revival in Australia.”
Dan Russell, general manager of the Brisbane-based and family-owned Clean Cruising, said those affected by the rolling ban were beyond furious and regarded the failure to address a resumption plan as a form of slow torture for businesses that are treading water and trying to save their remaining staff.
“Optimism had been growing that the federal government was preparing to lift its biosecurity ban on international cruise ships but these hopes were dashed with the announcement of the extended ban to February 17,” Russell said.
“On this basis, no one can now reasonably expect any cruise ship to be back in Australia in the first half of 2022 or even later.
“The frustration of travel agents and others that are affected is that after more than 20 months federal and state authorities have made no genuine attempt to set the guidelines for the resumption of cruising.
“We now know that it is not even enough for Canberra to step out of the way. It is then up to the states to allow cruise ships to enter their ports.
“Canberra must not only engage itself but also push the states along to achieve a restart. We need a cruise restart plan now or thousands more jobs and small businesses will be lost.”
Featured image: Carnival Spirit leaving Sydney Harbour (iStock/moisseyev)