Speedy vaccine rollout opens flight paths

·2-min read

Christmas is still on the radar for international travel based on the speed of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, as states jostle to build new quarantine hubs.

Western Australia will get a federal-backed quarantine camp on the outskirts of Perth.

Construction is under way at Victoria's "centre for national resilience" - the federal government's formal name for the camps - which will open within months.

The Queensland government has announced work will start on a COVID-19 quarantine hub at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba, that did not meet federal guidelines, as it moves to replace the hotel quarantine program.

"They have made that decision and they could have done that months ago if that's what they wished to do," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the Queensland plan on Thursday.

"Good for them. I wish them every success."

Airlines are also pushing for alternative requirements to mandatory hotel isolation for fully vaccinated international travellers.

International borders can open up at 80 per cent vaccination coverage through the use of travel bubbles, under the plan signed off by the national cabinet.

Current travel caps, trapping thousands of Australians abroad, will also need to go.

Before then, local tourism can restart.

"We should see interstate travel when we hit that 70 per cent vaccination rate," Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said.

"We want to see loved ones seeing each other again."

The plan is endorsed by the Doherty Institute, but some state governments are pushing back.

New daily cases have topped 1000 for the first time in NSW, setting a new record, as less infected areas look to protect their own freedoms.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce expects, on current projections, Australia to reach the vaccination threshold of 80 per cent in December.

The first COVID-safe destinations could include Singapore, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada, Mr Joyce said.

Assuming some or all parts of the two-way trans-Tasman bubble can restart, flights between Australia and New Zealand will be also be on sale for travel from mid-December.

Canberra airport, which hopes to be a future international hub, has announced all staff will have to be fully vaccinated to keep travellers safe.

Australia has fully vaccinated almost one third of its population aged 16 and over, with more than half receiving one jab.

A federal-backed quarantine facility will be built in Bullsbrook, Western Australia, on land near the contaminated Pearce RAAF base where firefighting foam seeped into groundwater.

It will be constructed and owned by the Commonwealth, but will be operated by the WA government during the pandemic.

The federal Department of Finance has signed off on any groundwater concerns, because the quarantine site won't use any.

It is expected the first 500 beds will be available in the first quarter of 2022.

"This centre will be there to help us respond to ongoing curveballs that COVID-19 may continue to throw our way," Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.

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