The boss of Virgin Australia has called for the nation’s border to be reopened well before mid-2022 even if ‘some people may die’.
Jane Hrdlicka said she disagreed with the federal government’s estimated reopening date for international travel, declaring Covid will be part of the community and ‘we’ve got to learn how to live with’ the virus.
She wants the border removed once the country’s most vulnerable people are immunised.
‘Covid will be part of the community, we will become sick with Covid and it won’t put us in hospital, and it won’t put people into dire straits because we’ll have a vaccine,’ Ms Hrdlicka said at a business lunch in Brisbane on Monday.
‘Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu.
‘We’re forgetting the fact that we’ve learnt how to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and we’ve got to learn how to live with this.’
Ms Hrdlicka warned Australia risked being left behind by the rest of the world if it waited another year before reopening the border.
Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlick (pictured) wants borders removed as soon as Australia’s most vulnerable people are immunised
Her comments came as Scott Morrison refused to reveal the benchmark for reopening the international border, saying only that restrictions will remain in place until it is safe to do anything different.
‘It’s not safe to take those next steps right now, it’s not. But we’ll keep working on what the next steps are,’ the Prime Minister said on Monday.
Mr Morrison is taking comfort in broad support for the closed border.
Three in four people believe Australia’s international border should remain closed until at least the middle of next year.
However, there is a growing push from the business community and within government ranks to open the border sooner than planned.
A poll published by The Australian has found 73 per cent of voters think the border should stay closed until at least mid-2022.
Only one in five people believes the border should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated.
But a group of Liberal MPs including Jason Falinski want the country to reopen as soon as possible.
They also want vaccinated Australians to be given a greater opportunity to travel overseas.
Mr Falinski said it was understandable people had adopted a ‘fortress mentality’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘But it doesn’t need to be that way,’ he told Seven.
‘We spent a lot of money keeping families safe, we don’t want to keep them apart.’
Mr Falinski wants people who are vaccinated to be able to reunite with friends and family overseas.
He suggested vaccinated people could quarantine at home rather than in a hotel upon their return to Australia.
Business leaders also want the borders to reopen, concerned about the economic consequences of keeping them sealed for another year.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet agrees, and has warned against letting populism determine public policy.
‘It’s the role of political leaders not to be following the polling or looking at what focus groups are saying,’ Mr Perrottet told Sky News.
‘The job is to lead and communicate and bring Australian people with us.’
Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said Australians must learn to live with coronavirus and be prepared for the disease to spread in the community when international borders reopen.
Dr Coatsworth said reaching zero cases of coronavirus in Australia was ‘perhaps unattainable’ and suggested vaccination rates of 90 per cent may be needed to control coronavirus within the community.
Australia’s vaccination rollout has entered a new stage, with people aged over 50 able to get the AstraZeneca shot from their family doctor.
The vaccines will be available at more than 4000 general practices across the country, with some clinics to have their deliveries tripled to cope with the expected rise in demand.
Previously, people aged over 50 could only receive their jabs from vaccination hubs or respiratory clinics.
More than three million Australians have received their coronavirus vaccinations.
But 15 per cent of aged care residents have still not been vaccinated.
Some 999 residential disability care residents have been vaccinated as of Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed.
Mr Hunt defended the pace of the rollout in the sector after the disability royal commission heard it was an abject failure.