Australian Borders Look to Remain Closed to International Travel for at Least Three-to-Four Months
But travel between Australia and NZ could be allowed to start before then.
April 23, 2020
With Australia's COVID-19 curve flattening, exactly how and when restrictions will be relaxed has dominated conversation of late. Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed that some social distancing and public gathering rules could be loosened in mid-May. Today, Thursday, April 23, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy shed some light on when international travel could restart. But don't go packing your suitcase just yet.
At a senate inquiry meeting into Australia's response to COVID-19, Murphy said that opening borders would be one of the last stages of easing restrictions. "At the moment, any relaxation of border measures would be very risky," Murphy said. "I wouldn't be envisaging any material changes [to border measures] in that three to four months."
One exception to that, Murphy hinted to, could be allowing travel between Australia and New Zealand. The Prime Minister echoed this sentiment in a press conference in the middle of the senate inquiry meeting (yes, a busy day), saying that he'd already been in discussions with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about potentially reopening borders. "If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first," Morrison said. "Undoubtedly that's New Zealand."
Some of the restrictions that could be eased before then, and possibly as soon as in three weeks, are those in small groups. In NSW, Victoria and Queensland at present, public gatherings are restricted to a maximum of two people or the members of your household. While Murphy said they "would not be contemplating large-scale gatherings" just yet, "some relaxation of the size of small groups is possible".
Other restrictions Murphy says the government is currently looking into loosening include "things like community sport and some retail measures". But, as has been the message repeated in the past week, "we have to weigh up the public health risk versus the benefit to society and the economy".
If you're wondering why we're hearing a lot from Murphy during COVID-19, and why his opinions hold weight, Murphy is not only the principal medical adviser to the Federal Health Minister, but also he's the chair of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which makes big decisions in health emergencies — such as global pandemics.
There's no exact date on when we'll be able to travel just yet — locally or internationally — but if you want to start dreaming, here are some of our favourite spots to visit in New Zealand.
Top image: Mueller Hut Track in New Zealand by Corey Parsons.
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