Virgin Australia's CEO has said it is critical Australia reopens its borders before June 2022, even though "some people may die".
Speaking on Monday at the QUT Business Leaders Forum in Brisbane Jayne Hrdlicka said the "narrative" around Covid-19 "needs to change".
"It needs to change so that Covid will become part of the community,” she said according to The Australian.
“It will make us sick but won’t put us into hospital. Some people may die but it will be way smaller than the flu.
“We’re forgetting the fact we have learnt to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and the government has to learn to live with this and sooner than June 2022.”
Airlines have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — with domestic travel limited for most of last year and international borders closing.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said borders would remain shut this year with public opinion clear protecting lives and jobs was paramount.
"They're not reopening anytime soon," he told Sky News on Thursday.
"Australians do not want us to reopen borders and risk Covid entering into this country, and risk the consequential loss of life, economic damage and loss of jobs across Australia."
Though Ms Hrdlicka said many Australians have loved ones overseas and while one year apart is a long time, she said two years is "unthinkable".
"I think socially we’re getting to a point where it’s no longer acceptable," she said.
In a statement, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline will work with governments at both a federal and state level to keep the Australian community safe.
"We agree with State and Federal leaders that eradication of COVID-19 cannot be the goal for our country," the spokesperson said.
"The question is not if, but when we will be sufficiently vaccinated to protect our people and our hospital system to open our International borders.
"We must learn to live with COVID-19 in the community in a way that protects the health and safety of our people but also opens Australia up to the rest of the world."
Australia closed its borders to non-nationals and non-residents in March 2020 and has since been allowing only limited international arrivals, mainly citizens returning from abroad.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to reveal the benchmark for reopening the international border, saying only that restrictions will remain in place until it is safe to do anything different.
"It's not safe to take those next steps right now, it's not. But we'll keep working on what the next steps are," he told reporters in Queensland on Monday.
The prime minister is taking comfort in broad support for the closed border.
Three in four people believe Australia's international border should remain closed until at least the middle of next year.
However, there is a growing push from the business community and within government ranks to open the border sooner than planned.
With AAP and Reuters.
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