Australia’s travel ban has been extended for another three months, leaving cruise ships and international travel grounded until mid-December at least.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Thursday the human biosecurity emergency period will be extended until December 17. It was activated on March 18.
“The extension of the emergency period was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC),” Mr Hunt said.
“AHPPC has advised that the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk.
“The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk.”
Under the law, which is part of the Biosecurity Act 2015, the government can restrict the arrival of cruise ships and prevent overseas travel.
Push to ‘make Australia whole again’ by Christmas
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Question Time on Thursday, “Australia was not meant to be closed”.
“We need to come together and ensure that we are clear with Australians that we will seek to make Australia whole again by Christmas this year,” he said.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Darren Rudd told Yahoo News Australia last month he believes people would be able to travel overseas as early as 2021.
Mr Rudd said Australia could realistically open its borders to a travel bubble in the next few months, but to what countries would depend on those that had similar epidemiological patterns to Australia.
He also said if countries in that travel bubble wanted to close off the border to each other due to the rise in coronavirus, there would need to be a pre-agreed checklist for countries so borders could not be impulsively opened and closed.
Queensland’s border conditions “a tall order”
As for travelling interstate, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continue to be at odds over border closures.
Ms Berejiklian said Queensland's demand that NSW eliminate COVID-19 community transmissions before it considers reopening its border is unreasonable and "a pretty tall order”.
NSW recorded 12 new cases on Thursday.
Ms Berejiklian says she spoke to her Queensland counterpart on Wednesday over the northern state's strict border measures.
The two leaders are at loggerheads over the border closure imposed by Queensland, which forces those coming from NSW without a valid exemption into 14 days of hotel quarantine at their own expense.
The restrictions came under fire last week after a Ballina woman pregnant with twins lost one of the babies after being forced to fly to Sydney for the birth.
The mother was told by northern NSW health officials she would have to go into quarantine under Queensland rules.
Ms Berejiklian said her conversation with Ms Palaszczuk was "polite and constructive" but she received no indication Queensland would ease its restrictions.
Ms Palaszczuk this week said border rules wouldn't change for at least another month.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Thursday that NSW needed to pass 28 days without any COVID-19 community transmission before the border rules would be reassessed.
"The guideline that's been set by the Queensland government in relation to when they reopen their border is a pretty tall order," Ms Berejiklian said.
"I don't know anywhere on the planet where a society could function productively during a pandemic and get an assurance you're going to (get) zero cases of community transmission.
"If you have confidence in your health system, confidence contact tracing is something you can do within your state, there shouldn't be a reason for you to keep your border closed given the low rates of community transmission currently in NSW."
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