International borders remain closed for another three months as Australia’s emergency travel ban has been extended until June 17.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the extension yesterday, citing the overseas situation as the main reason.
“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised the Australian Government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants,” Hunt said.
“The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety.”
This announcement takes Australia to 15 months of hard lockdown measures if the ban does not lift in June.
Hunt notes that the restrictions can be amended or repealed if no longer needed before the current set date.
The news comes to the disappointment of airlines and cruise lines, which have taken massive financial hits due to the strong border restrictions.
However, while the ban on international cruise ships in Australia will continue, the current domestic cruise business shows signs of rebounding.
Meanwhile, Qantas had previously announced they plan to resume international flights in Oct. 2021, after posting a half-year revenue loss of $1.03 billion. They do not expect international flight capacity to fully recover until 2024.
James Goodwin, CEO of Australia Airport Association, said that over the last 12 months, airlines were losing an estimated $320 million a month and had lost 25 percent of their workforce.
“What we really want to see is a phased reopening of those borders to rebuild confidence to travel. And we want to get people filling those aircraft and filling our airports,” Goodwin told the Today Show.
He said the vaccine rollout was the latest confidence boost the sector needed to get back up and running.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that vaccinations would be mandatory for international flights with the airline once international flights resume.
“We have a duty of care to our people and our passengers, and once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement for travel on our international services,” Joyce said. “There will be some exceptions for people who can’t, for medical reasons, take vaccines.”
“And our flights to New Zealand will probably be exempt given their success at controlling COVID-19 as well, just as domestic flights will be exempt.”
The federal government has also considered making vaccinations a requirement for international travel according to the latest vaccination policy document in which they state they are considering introducing “border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.”
This would be a change of government stance after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the current domestic vaccine rollout is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate.