CATO calls for domestic ‘vaccine passport’ and transparency around PM’s pathway out of COVID-19

Digital vaccine passport app in mobile phone for travel during Covid-19 pandemic. The mobile phone and passport are on a suitcase.

The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) is urging the federal government to give hard timelines and transparency around the trigger points for each phase of its new four-phase plan.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a roadmap ‘out of COVID-19’ that would introduce more relaxed restrictions on international travel for vaccinated Australians, ranging from a shorter quarantine period to unrestricted overseas travel.

However, CATO chairman Dennis Bunnik said the industry needs more information to protect their businesses until international borders reopen.

“What the federal government is not taking into consideration is that businesses in the travel industry cannot continue to borrow financially in order to keep their doors open for an indiscriminate amount of time,” he said.

“The travel industry needs clear trigger points regarding vaccination levels for easing both domestic and international border restrictions.

“We need a simple and easy-to-access vaccination passport for non-restricted domestic travel – this can be used to incentivise vaccinations so that Australians can see the positive benefits of getting the jab.

“We also need approval of a seven-day home quarantine option for returning, fully-vaccinated international travellers.”

Bunnik also argued the need for more public messaging about planning ahead for travel and not waiting till the borders open before deciding to be vaccinated, noting this may prolong travel further for consumers (three months plus) particularly for the over 50s and 60s.

 “This will allow them the freedom to fly and reconnect with their family, loved ones, friends and or colleagues both domestically and internationally and to say goodbye to lockdowns and cancelled domestic travel,” he said.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) estimates that international travel is still at least six months if not a year away for most Australians, given that the government has estimated that the vaccine will be available to everyone by the end of the year.

“The government needs to protect the remaining high-skilled jobs in the travel sector through extending grant schemes and improving eligibility,” Bunnik said.

“In tandem, it needs to work with the travel industry to prepare for a return of international travel to avoid massive skills shortage and enable Australians to travel safely.”

CATO is just the latest industry body to demand clarity and support in reaction to the plan, with AFTA, The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) all sharing a similar messages on Friday.


Featured image source: iStock/Onfokus

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