Australia’s ‘hermit nation’ border gamble
Australia will turn into a 'hermit nation' unless we start accepting and living with COVID-19, as well as opening international borders, a leading infectious disease expert has warned.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he had "talked to Pacific leaders" about resuming quarantine-free travel to certain islands as soon as they were confident Australian travellers posed no COVID-19 risk to locals.
In addition, Mr Morrison said he had also engaged in "good discussions" with leaders in South Korea and Japan about future travel bubbles, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne had also been on the phone in talks with Singapore - albeit any such arrangement was "a bit further off".
But with New Zealand's travel bubble with parts of Australia launching this week, Australian National University's Professor Peter Collignon said bubbles with other low-risk countries should happen sooner rather than later, rather than have a blanket rule for all incoming travellers.
"We can't be a hermit nation for two, three, four or five years but whatever we do, we have to keep risks to a minimum," he told the Sydney Morning Herald, pointing to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and most of the Pacific to have corridors first.
"At the moment those countries have low levels of community transmission. What that means for quarantining, maybe you do it home?" he said.
"I think we are in this bind for two to three more years, until we get a vaccine that's 90 per cent effective."
New Zealanders will be able to enter NSW and the Northern Territory from this Friday without having to enter mandatory hotel quarantine.
Mr Morrison said while he welcomed the corridor, Australia will still need to approach travel with caution.
"We have to go cautiously on this, very very cautiously," he said.
"COVID-19 hasn't gone anywhere, it's still there. It is no less aggressive today than it was six months ago."
Mr Morrison has previously criticised Australia's internal border regulations, especially between Queensland and NSW.
The PM said earlier this week that Queensland's border closure isn't something to boast about and suggested the measure may not be "absolutely necessary".
Queensland has set NSW a benchmark of 28 days without unlinked community transmission of COVID-19 before the border reopens.
Mr Morrison said he wasn't convinced Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's border was "absolutely" necessary with NSW.
"You would only have borders in for as long as you absolutely have to have them," he said.
"They are not something, I suppose, to boast of, they are things that are necessary, but are regrettably necessary in many occasions.
"So when you have to have them, well, let's have them based on medical advice and for only as long as you absolutely have to because the longer they are there, the more they do stop jobs."