Australia’s border is unlikely to fully reopen in 2021, even if most of its population gets vaccinated against Covid-19 this year, as planned.
The prediction by Australian Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy has lowered the chances of travel to and from the country beginning by early summer.
‘Substantial border restrictions’ to continue
Professor Murphy said “substantial border restrictions” will likely continue throughout 2021.
Australia has had strict border controls in place since March 2020, restricting Australians from leaving the country. Those returning from overseas must quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for two weeks.
The country opened a travel bubble with New Zealand last year, but is only currently operating one way flights inbound to the country.
Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases. On 18 January, the country reported zero locally transmitted infections.
When asked by ABC if borders would reopen this year, Professor Murphy said: “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.”
Travel outside Australia is currently forbidden until at least 17 March.
The country is set to begin its vaccination programme in late February, with local authorities resisting calls to speed up the process, allowing more time for regulatory approvals for the vaccinations.