Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed what many Aussies knew deep down in their hearts – there won’t be any holidays to Europe or the United States next year.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been quick to try and soften the blow, reassuring the public on Sunday that he’s in talks with leaders in the Pacific and Asia about forming travel bubbles with Australia.
Mr Morrison said he had spoken to a number of Pacific leaders in the past week, as well as the prime ministers of Japan and South Korea, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne had been holding talks in Singapore.
Senator Birmingham dashed hopes of a European summer holiday for 2021 in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, when he said, “The prospects of opening up widespread travel with higher-risk countries will remain very reliant on effective vaccination or other major breakthroughs in the management of COVID”.
He went on to provide a glimmer of hope in the form of travel between Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year.
“Work continues on how we can facilitate two-way, COVID-safe travel between Australia and New Zealand, and I hope that we can see a reciprocal arrangement of quarantine-free travel with New Zealand by the year’s end,” he said.
Kiwis will be able to fly to the safe states of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, from October 16.
However, a Qantas spokesperson told the ABC there hadn’t been a lot of uptake on tickets from our neighbours across the ditch.
Passports (almost) at the ready
Our politicians have been in discussions with international leaders and health authorities for some months, discussing the establishment of travel bubbles between Australia and other (mostly island) countries with low COVID-19 case numbers.
One of the firm bets, apart from New Zealand, for the first destinations to open up has been Fiji.
The South Pacific country not only relies heavily on Australian and New Zealand tourists for its economy, it has had less than 30 cases of the virus.
Two weeks ago Japan announced it was getting ready to welcome Aussies, as it seeks to find a “COVID normal”.
The close proximity of these countries – alongside Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – to Australia allows for direct flights, but it’s still too soon to tell if the federal government will open our borders before a vaccine is available.
Results in 15 minutes
One of the speculated ways we will be able to travel before a vaccine has been rolled out, is through the advent of rapid testing kits.
Touted by the International Air Transport Association, the rapid testing kits would deliver results in 15 minutes, eliminating the need for quarantine on arrival and departure.
“This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel,” association boss Alexandre de Juniac said.
“Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”
Qantas head Alan Joyce has also thrown his support behind rapid testing, saying it could facilitate bubbles to countries with “like level” virus rates.