Prime Minister Scott Morrison has doubled down on claims international travel will return once 80% COVID-19 vaccination rates are met, with students and skilled migrants among the first to reenter Australia’s borders.
Speaking in Washington D.C. Thursday morning, Morrison reiterated his faith in the nationally-agreed plan to pry the border open once the vast majority of Australians have received both jabs.
“We’re expecting to be welcoming back students. We’re expecting to be welcoming back skilled migrants. We’re expecting to be welcoming back, when they’re vaccinated, people into the country when they’re vaccinated on that basis,” Morrison said.
“The premiers and I are looking at that. So I look forward to that. I think Australians look forward to that.”
International media reports UK Prime Minister Boris Johson met with Morrison last night to discuss issues ranging from a controversial nuclear submarine agreement to the likelihood of English cricketers being welcomed into Australia for the Ashes series this summer.
“I would love to see the Ashes go ahead as I shared with Boris last night,” Morrison said, while indicating Australia would make “no special deals” for athletes.
Instead, Morrison indicated athletes would be considered among the many thousands of skilled migrants and international students waiting to enter Australia.
“When it comes to their profession, which is playing cricket, I don’t see the difference between that and someone who is coming as a skilled, qualified engineer or someone who is coming to be ready for studying,” he said.
International travel on track for Christmas, federal government says
The federal government has flagged that states which reach 80% vaccination rates among those aged 16 and older will be permitted to resume international travel, ending a closed border policy enacted in March 2020.
That goal is “on track” to be achieved by Christmas, Trade Minister Dan Tehan told 2GB radio Thursday morning.
“The 80% national vaccination rate means that we open the international border, and we’re on track to reach that before Christmas,” he said.
“So I’ve said it before, if you’re thinking about travelling, have a look at your passport, make sure it’s up to date… [It’s] great news for our tourism industry, 660,000 jobs in our tourism industry, and great news for Australians who are doing their bit, rolling their sleeves up and getting vaccinated, because we’re going to be able to travel before Christmas.”
Morrison also voiced his optimism about vaccination rates Wednesday, as full vaccination rates sailed past the 48.5% mark.
“We’re at almost three quarters of the country now with a first dose, and we’ll be at one in two having received a second dose very, very soon,” he told reporters.
“So, we keep that up, people will be able, will be able to travel again, and particularly in those states that are achieving those marks, and I want to encourage everyone across Australia to go and get that jab.”
The return of international travel will also rely on a new vaccine passport system, which could reportedly launch within weeks.
The use of hotel quarantine for Australia’s heavily limited international arrivals will also be minimised as vaccination rates climb.
South Australia has already launched a home quarantine trial for international arrivals, allowing them to avoid the hotel quarantine system. A similar trial will kick off in New South Wales next month.