Australian PM rejects travel industry’s calls for borders to be reopened for vaccinated citizens

Australia’s prime minister has rejected calls from the travel industry to relax strict Covid border measures and allow fully vaccinated individuals to travel overseas, warning that it’s not yet safe to roll back restrictions.

Speaking to reporters on May 18, Prime Minister Scott Morrison accepted that “everyone is keen to get back to a time that we once knew” but warned that “the reality is we are living this year in a pandemic that is worse than last year.”

The decision by Morrison to stand by his government’s strict border restrictions comes after the country’s travel industry urged officials to quickly move towards a position where international travel can resume, at least for fully vaccinated people.

On May 18, regional media quoted Virgin Australia’s chief, Jayne Hrdlicka, seeking to justify asking that the borders be reopened, as saying that “some people may die, but it will be way smaller than the flu,” and telling the government it “can’t keep [Covid] out forever.” Morrison responded directly to those remarks by describing them as “somewhat insensitive.”

Australia’s current roadmap out of Covid restrictions would see the country reopen its borders to the rest of the world from the middle of 2022, despite hoping to have fully vaccinated all its citizens by the end of this year.

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While the travel industry is urging a quick reopening of borders, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has defended Morrison’s more cautious approach, saying that dedicated quarantine facilities would need to be established to cope with the influx of arrivals into the country from areas with high infection rates.

Discussing the need for a slower return to normal, AMA President Omar Khorshid warned that Australia’s healthcare system would be “ill equipped to deal with any surge in demand resulting from any community spread of Covid-19.”

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