Days after controversial comments from the CEO of Virgin Australia — who said that an earlier opening for Australia’s border made long-term sense, even if “some people may die” — Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he’s “not going to take risks with Australians’ lives” and that when it comes to reopening borders, medical advice confirmed it was “not safe to take those paths”.
Morrison also refuses to tie COVID vaccination rates with the reopening of international borders, citing the fact not all vaccines could deal with new virus variants. 73% of Australians are currently in support of international borders remaining closed, according to recent polling.
Jayne Hrdlicka, the chief executive of Virgin Australia who made the original comments, isn’t alone in her push for borders opening though — several business leaders have come to her defense in the past few days.
Flight Centre chief executive, Graham Turner, says “that we can’t stay shut forever” and now the question is “when do we open and what are the conditions for opening.”
James Goodwin, chief of the Australian Airport Association (AAA), told the Daily Telegraph that the aviation sector had continued to call for a “plan” from the government in terms of international travel; citing the long lead times in aviation.
According to figures from the AAA, 80% of people surveyed supported the creation of more travel bubbles to other COVID-19 safe countries — similar to the current Trans-Tasman bubble.
Although Australians — including families with young children — are looking more and more at domestic travel, the research from AAA says interstate travel is hindered due to border closures, with 61% of respondents identifying this as a drawback.
However, 70% of people would change their travel plans for a subsidised destination — we do love a good deal here in Australia. Goodwin called on the government to consult with tourism and aviation, and consider extending half-price tickets; when launched in April offering 800,000 seats, worked.
Medical professionals are also urging political leaders to strengthen hotel quarantine, according to the Canberra Times, both in the short term, as well as establishing long-term dedicated quarantine facilities, which in turn will enable greater travel freedom.
Looks like Scott Morrison has a lot to consider.