Australia’s international borders are likely to remain shut well into next year as large parts of the world grapple with a continuing coronavirus nightmare.
The devastating situation in India has highlighted the volatility of the disease, which has killed millions around the globe.
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.”
While the minister refused to be pinned down on a timeline, he said any decision on overseas travel remained some way off.
“We’re dealing now in May of 2021 with arguably a more uncertain environment in the management of COVID than we had a few months ago,” Senator Birmingham said.
He said India’s case spike and outbreaks in other parts of the world were behind his reluctance to name a date to restart overseas travel.
“Australians would be surprised if it resumed at the end of this year or frankly any earlier than that.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reiterated his support for a vaccination passport to increase the chances of quarantine-free travel.
“I do like this idea. I’ve been saying this for a while. But we’ve got to make sure the health systems can support that,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW.
He said more evidence was needed to prove vaccination stopped people from transmitting the disease.
The federal government has also tasked medical experts with investigating safe home quarantine to increase the number of arrivals and departures.
“Ultimately, that will be up to each state and territory because they administer these things. It’s their public health orders that need to be satisfied,” Mr Morrison said.
“That is the next step but I still think that step is some way away.”