Australia’s international border could remain closed even once the entire country has been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Minister Hunt said the federal government wouldn’t base its decision on when to reboot international travel solely on vaccine outcomes.
“Vaccination alone is no guarantee that you can open up,” he said.
“And this was a discussion that in fact I had with Professor Murphy in just the last 24 hours, that if the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders.
“We still have to look at a series of different factors: transmission, longevity and the global impact. And those are factors which the world is learning about.
“But we are opening up internationally to New Zealand, within the coming days for two-way travel. We’re already opened to New Zealand.
“We’re then looking at other countries within the Pacific and within the region that are potentially low-transmission environments, and therefore Australia can do that.
“And as we’ve said, this year will be about progressively opening up. And that’s what the Prime Minister has tasked his department to work on, with all of the states and territories. So, a series of safety milestones as we progress forward, which allow us to open up.”
The Health Minister’s comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded the government could no longer commit to its target of offering all Aussies their first vaccine dose by October this year, due to concerns over rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro of international supply chains and other disruptions that can occur, we’re just getting on with it,” the PM said in a statement on Monday.
Qantas is yet to make any changes to its timetable for restarting international flights in light of Australia’s delayed vaccine rollout.
“The government has not updated its timeline for the effective completion of the vaccine rollout, and at this stage, there’s no change to the planned restart of our international flights,” a Qantas spokesperson told ABC News.
“We’ll continue to have dialogue with the government.”
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