Australian government dashes hopes for international travel

The coveted trip to Greece may have to wait until way after 2022

Days after National Cabinet listened to expert medical advice for the reopening of Australia’s international borders, hopes were dashed for the resumption of overseas travel.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “it’s not safe right now to open up our international borders” during a Facebook Live, while Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt refusing to guarantee reopening borders even if the whole country gets vaccinated.

“It’s not safe right now to open up our international borders. Around the world, COVID-19 is still rife,” Mr Morrison said.

“We’ll keep moving quickly to vaccinate our most vulnerable population, and we’ll keep those borders closed for as long as we have to, but only as long as we have to, and we’re already right now preparing for what it looks like when we can open up again,” he said.

Mr Hunt said vaccination was not a guarantee to open borders.

“We still have to look at a series of different factors: transmission, longevity [of protection from vaccines] and the global impact, and those are factors which the world is learning about,” he said.

The two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is set to begin at 11.59pm on 18 April, with passengers being exempt from hotel quarantine.

The government is now turning its attention to other areas in the Pacific region that Australia might be able to make similar arrangements with.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka backed her Qantas counterpart Alan Joyce in calls to reopen international travel after Mr Joyce said he hoped for international flights to be back by October.

“I agree with him it is time to get the borders back open,” Ms Hrdlicka told Today.

Most Greek Australians hankering for a holiday to Greece will have to make do with closer destinations.

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