Holidays are coming! Scott Morrison considers opening travel bubbles with low-risk countries – raising hopes that Aussies will FINALLY be allowed overseas after 10-month travel ban
The government is considering allowing quarantine-free travel from Pacific islands, giving Aussies hope of an overseas holiday this year.
On Thursday Health Minister Greg Hunt said medical experts are considering adding Pacific nations such as Fiji and Vanuatu to the list of ‘green’ countries which can send flights to Australia without quarantine.
The government is considering allowing quarantine-free travel from Pacific islands such as Fiji, giving Aussies hope of an overseas holiday this year. Pictured: Mamanuca Islands
If those nations, which are heavily dependent on tourism, agree to a two-way travel bubble then Australians could be allowed to fly overseas for the first time since March.
‘We have been supportive of the idea of expanding the existing travel bubble with New Zealand,’ Mr Hunt told reporters.
‘This is based very much on the health advice and so we keep countries under review.’
The government categorises countries as green, amber or red, depending on how many Covid infections they are suffering.
Fiji has only had 53 cases of the virus and currently has zero active cases.
‘Our goal is if the Pacific countries are able to be shown to be at the lowest risk level – and they are doing extraordinarily well – and that we’re able to put in the appropriate protections, then we could well expand that bubble,’ Mr Hunt said.
Aerial view of a boat carrying tourist to the stunning Erakor island in the Port Vila bay, Vanuatu
‘But that’s evidence based, based on very hard medical data, and the overview of the Commonwealth Chief Health Officer on the advice of the medical expert panel.’
Mr Hunt declined to say which countries would be included or when a decision would be made.
On Monday Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said Australia’s borders will likely remain closed to high-risk countries like the UK and US for the whole year.
The professor said ‘substantial border restrictions’ will continue throughout 2021 and quarantine of returning Australians will be in place for ‘some time’.
Australia is one of few countries in the world to ban its citizens from leaving the country and those who are returning from overseas must quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for two weeks.
Asked if the borders would re-open this year, Professor Murphy told the ABC: ‘It is a big open question. I think the answer is probably no.
‘We will go most of this year with still-substantial border restrictions, 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.’
Australia’s borders will probably remain closed to high-risk nations for most of the year, Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said on Monday. Pictured: A domestic flight from Sydney to Adelaide
Professor Murphy said there was still too much uncertainty to accurately predict when it would be safe to open the country to overseas arrivals.
‘One of the things about this virus is that the rule book has been made up as we go. I was very careful early on, I remember saying this to the Prime Minister, I don’t want to predict more than two or three months ahead,’ he said.
‘The world is changing so at the moment we have this light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccine, so we will go as safely and as fast as we can to get the population vaccinated and we will look at what happens then.’
Australia is due to start vaccinating the population next month. The vaccines available are proved to reduced illness and death but are not proven to stop the virus spreading.
Under current health orders outgoing travel is forbidden until March 17 this year.
Domestic passengers wait in line to check in at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith domestic airport