Australian Borders May Stay Closed to International Travel Until 2022
Even with the vaccine rolling out in the coming months, ex-Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy expects that travel mightn't return to normal in 2021.
Come March 2021, it will have been 12 months since the Australian Government implemented an indefinite ban on international travel due to COVID-19, only allowing Aussies to leave the country in very limited circumstances. Accordingly, just when jetting overseas will be back on the agenda has been the subject of much discussion. Last year's prediction that opening up to the rest of the world wouldn't happen in 2020 proved accurate, in fact — and now it looks like that could remain the case in 2021 as well.
This isn't particularly surprising news; however, with a COVID-19 vaccine currently being rolled out around the globe — with the first jabs slated to hit Aussie arms sometime in February — there was hope that 2021 could see a slow return to normality. But Australia's ex-Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has now forecast that the travel situation is unlikely to change soon, even with the vaccine.
Appearing on ABC New Breakfast on Monday, January 18, Murphy — who is now the Secretary of the Department of Health — said "I think the answer is probably no. I think we will go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions. He continued: "even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus, and it is likely that quarantine will continue for some time".
"At the moment, we have this light at the end of the tunnel — the vaccine — so we're going to go as safely and as fast as we can to get our population vaccinated," he also advised. "And then we'll look at what happens."
Will there be widespread reopening of Australia's international borders this year?
"I think the answer is probably no ... even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus," says Professor Brendan Murphy. pic.twitter.com/f1K2k7asgd
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) January 17, 2021
Murphy also said that, early on in the pandemic, he told Prime Minister Scott Morrison that he didn't want to "predict more than two or three months ahead" — because, "one of the things about this virus is that the rule book is being made up as we go". Eager travellers might remember that last April, Murphy advised that international travel wouldn't be back for at least three-to-four months. With COVID-19 cases continuing to spike elsewhere in the world, that timeframe just keeps extending.
At the moment, Australia has implemented a 'travel bubble' with New Zealand — reinstating international travel just between the two countries before Australia's international border reopens to all nations worldwide. It's presently only one-way, though, meaning that New Zealanders can come to Australia, but Australians aren't yet able to holiday in NZ.
It's worth noting, as everyone should be well and truly aware, that Australia's domestic border situation keeps changing with frequency, too — including recent updates in response to cases in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne — so travelling anywhere beyond your own city probably isn't guaranteed to be straightforward for the foreseeable future.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.
Published on January 19, 2021 by Sarah Ward