The Federal Budget has some grim news for most Australians hoping the pandemic to end soon and life to return to normal.
The government is predicting Australia’s population won’t be vaccinated until the end of 2021 – which means overseas travel will ‘remain low’ until then and social distancing measures will be kept in place.
However, the federal Government expects every state border to be open by Christmas, except for Western Australia, which it believes will keep its borders closed until after its state election on March 31, 2021.
Overseas travel has been banned since March and it remains unclear when it will resume.
The budget papers say travel will ‘remain low’ until 2021 – presumably only for essential journeys, rather than holidays in Bali, the Europe or the US.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said the first step will be to open to ‘safe locations’.
New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Pacific islands such as Fiji may be among the first countries that Australians will be allowed to travel to.
The Prime Minister revealed last week that he is considering a ‘traffic light system’ that would allow people entering Australia from Covid-safe countries to avoid hotel quarantine.
‘Our borders will open up at some point to safe locations whether it be New Zealand or parts of the Pacific or places like South Korea or Japan or countries that have had a much higher rate of success,’ he told reporters.
Mr Morrison said other countries including Denmark and Greece have similar models where returned travellers only have to go into quarantine if they have come from places with high levels of coronavirus.
He said he was considering letting people quarantine at home instead of in hotels if they fly in from a low-risk country.
‘Home quarantine can play a role in the future and it’s something that is being considered by the AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee).
‘We will need a more flexible approach that gives us more options for managing this, so that is something that is under active consideration,’ he said.
Mr Morrison said home quarantine worked well in February and March when many Chinese Australians were returning from China.
Since March 17 only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter Australia. They must complete two weeks of hotel quarantine at their own cost.
Overseas travel is banned until 17 December and that period may be extended.
A travel bubble with New Zealand which will allow holidays without quarantine has long been under discussion but still has not happened.
Under revised plans drawn up by Australia’s tourism restart task force, Kiwis would be able to freely enter Australia in November and Aussies would go the other way by January or February.
The plan, obtained by the The Australian, calls for all states to open their borders by December 1.