Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed the Australian government’s new goal: Australia plans to open its international borders in November. This rule is to apply only to states that have reached an 80% vaccination rate. 

“The time has come to give Australians their lives back,” said Morrison. 

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020 has forced the whole world to go into lockdown. As such, many had to bid their travel plans goodbye. Tourism sectors suffered huge losses. 

Australia’s tourism sector is no exception. From receiving 9.5 million arrivals in 2019, today, its international borders are completely shut. 

But this month, the Australian government has decided to change this. Come November, should the vaccination rates reach the intended target, fully vaccinated Australians will soon be able to travel abroad. 

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Missing Australia? Turns out, it misses tourists, too.

Travel Companies Exert Pressure on Australia to Lift Travel Ban

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Flight Centre’s CEO, Graham Turner, prepares to take legal action against the state.

The renowned travel agency Flight Centre has made it clear that it plans to link arms with some of Australia’s other travel companies. Together, they’ve expressed their intentions to file a legal action against Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania should these states fail to concoct a reasonable plan to lift their travel bans in the next few weeks. 

Graham Turner, the chief executive of Flight Centre, claimed: “We express the state premiers to have a plan and we expect it to be reasonable. If not, and the borders stay shut, we don’t have a choice but to challenge.”

Australia’s closed borders have cost Flight Centre a whopping A$100 million a month. In 2020’s first ten months, Australia suffered a loss of $35.44 billion in tourism revenue. If the country continues to shut its borders out and limit tourism opportunities, it’s safe to assume Australia’s tourism sector will continue to depreciate. 

Flight Centre isn’t the first business to raise its sword against the state. Last year, businessman and mining mogul Clive Palmer brought an action against Western Australia. But his efforts were declined. The judge determined that Western Australia’s border closures were done for a valid reason: to keep COVID-19 at bay. 

But today, the situation looks different. Over 70% of the people across New South Wales are already fully vaccinated. Flight Centre expects the states to reopen these days without running the risk of causing grave danger to public safety. Australia has also offered vaccine booster shots to those who are severely immunocompromised. Local experts advise that these third doses involve the option of either Pfizer or Moderna.

In response to this threat of legal action, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk merely said, “Good luck to them.”

Here’s How Australia Plans to Open its Borders

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Not long from now, people can start booking their flight tickets to the ‘Land Down Under’.

“The last 18 months have been really tough and the industry has been running on fumes,” said Dennis Bunnik, a member of the Council of Australian Tour Operators. 

Many businesses are welcoming this change. In anticipation of Australia lifting its travel ban, there has been a lot of debate on how this should go about. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that vaccinated travelers will only need to spend a week instead of 14 days in quarantine. And they can be quarantined at home, instead of having to spend two weeks in an official facility. 

This rule has been in the trial stage for a while now. The New South Wales government has recently chosen Louise Sauvage, Paralympian and leading coach, to participate in this trial after returning from the Tokyo Games this year. 

“I really do hope [home quarantine] is the way for the future,” said Sauvage. “So many people are still going through hotel quarantine. It would be nice if we didn’t have to do that.”

These home quarantine trials aren’t just specifically for New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia are practicing them too. 

Apprehensive Responses as Australia Plans to Open its Borders

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Not every state is quite ready to open its borders just yet.

Despite Australia’s plan to open its borders, not all states are so ready to receive this new change. South Australia, Queensland, and Western Australia show their reluctance to open up their borders. 

Despite having little to no local cases, these states indicated that they may keep their borders closed even after achieving the vaccination target rate of 80%. Those who are fully vaccinated only make up 58% of the population as of Wednesday. 

Palaszczuk said, “There will be another National Cabinet meeting next month, and we hope to be in a position then. But we will open when it’s safe to do so. We’re looking very closely at what’s happening in New South Wales and Victoria.”

But she remains cautious. Victoria’s current record of over 1,800 cases is keeping everyone on their toes. Of course, the priority lies in the vaccination rates. 

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath, on the other hand, expressed her belief that by November, just about every person in Queensland will be given access to vaccination. 

“We do expect that [by] November, based on the numbers that the Commonwealth are telling us should be coming in, the volume of vaccines coming in, that we are getting close to be able to offer it to everyone.”

But currently, Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney remain in lockdown. States are cautious as to how to approach this new plan to lift the travel ban. 

Whatever the outcome, one thing’s for sure: Australia’s not planning on sitting quietly in the face of this pandemic.