Fortress Australia: PM warns of indefinite national border closure

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·News Reporter
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International travel is off the table for Australians with the Prime Minister saying borders will remain closed to other countries indefinitely.

Scott Morrison told The Daily Telegraph on Sunday, he doesn’t believe Australians want to see international borders reopening and the PM wants to maintain a cautious approach.

“We sit here as an island that’s living like few countries in the world are at the moment,” he told the paper.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has.”

The PM added that he is concerned should Covid-19 spread throughout the community, it would prove difficult to remove.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at the CPO in Sydney.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks after a National Cabinet meeting last week. Source: AAP

After his comments were widely reported, Mr Morrison later clarified via a statement on Facebook, saying Australia’s Covid-suppression strategy “has not changed to an ‘elimination’ strategy”.

“There will always be cases as we return Australians home from overseas,” he wrote.

“International borders will only open when it is safe to do so. We still have a long way to go, and there are still many uncertainties ahead.

“Australians are living like in few countries around the world today. We will continue to do everything we can to work together [to] prevent a third wave and roll out our vaccination programme. And, as always, we will continue to listen to the medical advice and make decisions in the best health and economic interests of all Australians.”

Australia remains open to New Zealand despite the land of of the long white cloud suspending its travel bubble with NSW on Thursday. That bubble has since recommenced.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 aircaft is seen arriving as a Qantas Boeing 737-800 departs, at Sydney International Airport.
The PM said Australians don't want international borders to re-open. Source: AAP (file pic)

Mr Morrison said he also doesn’t believe there is enough evidence Covid-19 vaccines prevent transmission to remove or ease quarantine.

When asked when immigrants will be able to return, Mr Morrison replied: “I don’t know” and called it a “medium-term” challenge.

Non-infectious Aussies in India set to return

Australia will resume flights with India on May 15 with 9000 Aussies trapped in the Covid-ravaged nation.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly warned some could die as a result of the flight pause, which he recommended was necessary to stop quarantine from being overwhelmed and give the federal government time to bolster facilities. 

There will be three flights this month to bring back the most urgent cases, provided they test negative twice before boarding the plane.

All arrivals will be quarantined at the Northern Territory's Howard Springs mining camp where capacity is set to increase to 2000 beds.

People found to have coronavirus in a pre-flight test will be denied the right to board planes.

"That is a clear port of entry requirement. We will be holding the line on that," Mr Morrison said. As a result, some of the most vulnerable Australians will be left in India. 

After repeatedly condemning state leaders for opting to close borders, Mr Morrison has opted for a harsher national border approach after seeing state premiers rewarded by voters for their caution. But the threat of jail time and heavy fines for returning Aussies prompted widespread criticism.

Passengers collect baggage after arriving on Flight QF444 from Melbourne at Sydney Domestic Airport in Sydney.
People arrive in Sydney from Melbourne. Source: AAP

Four possible overseas destinations for Australians

While the PM said borders won’t be reopening anytime soon, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce suggested four countries which Australia could share a bubble with not including New Zealand.

“There’s clearly a lot of countries in the region, especially in the Asia-Pacific, and have had a tight control on Covid, but they give us market opportunities for Singapore, markets like Japan, markets like Taiwan for us to potentially open up,” he told reporters at Sydney’s First Class International Lounge last month.

“But also actively looking at the Pacific Islands, because there are real good opportunities in places like Fiji and the Pacific Islands to open up.”

Qantas is still planning on an October 31 date to relaunch its international travel network, with the airline selling tickets to many overseas destinations from the end of October.

with AAP

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