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Australia’s international borders set to remain closed to high risk countries signals PM

Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today hinted that Australia’s international borders are likely to remain closed to high-risk countries, while talks are underway to establish safe travel arrangements with countries with low risk of community transmissions.

Australians could face bans on travelling to and from high-risk countries including Europe and America, as the government weighs up the risk of a resurgence from overseas coronavirus cases against the economic recovery expected from reopening the country’s borders.


Highlights:


Addressing the media on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said Australia will “proceed cautiously” towards lifting its international border ban, which has been in place since March this year.

“There are countries that are doing far better than what we are seeing in Europe and the United States. The situation in Europe and the United States is awful. And obviously, that presents great risks for people coming in from those parts of the world to Australia,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.
AAP

Mr Morrison, however, said the government is in talks with “low risk” coronavirus countries - particularly in Asia - and is considering establishing risk-free travel zones with select countries, including Japan.

“We continue to hold these discussions with countries like Japan, we have had them before with Korea, the Pacific nations, of course, New Zealand has already been opened for travel into Australia without quarantine arrangements,” he said.

The prime minister said this reopening process is being followed by many countries and Australia is also open to considering it but has not made a decision on this front so far.

“Out of many parts of Asia, particularly in North Asia, places like Taiwan and I would also say provinces of China, Singapore, we, you know, are looking at what alternative arrangements could be had to channel visitors through appropriate quarantine arrangements for low-risk countries,” he added.

While Mr Morrison stopped short of identifying all the high-risk countries, it is expected that borders may remain closed to countries with higher cases of infections and community transmissions until a vaccine is found.

He said more details will be revealed after the national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Australian international borders will reopen "steadily and safely: Alan Tudge

The development comes days after Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge signalled a gradual lifting of the international border restrictions while maintaining that travel movement will continue to remain low and slow through to the latter part of 2021.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge
Alan Tudge at Parliament House in Canberra
AAP

Mr Tudge said the country was moving towards lifting its international travel restrictions “slowly and steadily,” as the government officials work on establishing travel bubble arrangements with select countries with low-rate of coronavirus infections.

“Those countries have also had very low infection rates. And if those open up again it will mean we will be able to bring people into Australia without the quarantine because the quarantining you will appreciate almost becomes the bottleneck or the speed limit of how many people we can bring into the country,” said Minister Tudge.

What about other high-risk countries?

In its latest survey, the International Air Transport Association, an industry group, estimated that global air traffic will nosedive by 66% in 2020, and it is expected that the international passenger traffic will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. 

A traveler walks in a mostly empty American Airlines terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport in May, 2020.
A traveler walks in a mostly empty airport terminal.
AAP

Melbourne-based travel agent Raju Salaria who has been in the hospitality business for the past fourteen years said the future looks bleak for travellers from source countries grappling with escalating coronavirus cases.

“This could well mean that travellers and visa holders from high-risk countries such as India, Indonesia or as Mr Morrison mentioned America and Europe may still not be able to enter Australia, which will put a significant dent in our businesses and travel economy already buckling under the pressure,” said Mr Salaria.

He, however, added that travel bubbles with the Asian region will reinstall some amount of confidence in the hospitality sector, which has been worst-hit by the pandemic.

“This is a step in the right direction and once the governments of the participating countries successfully run these travel arrangements, it would encourage Australia to enter into bilateral travel arrangements with countries other than South East Asia,” added Mr Salaria.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Listen to SBS Punjabi Monday to Friday at 9 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Listen to SBS Punjabi Monday to Friday at 9 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter