Australia’s border to stay shut until vaccine found, hints minister

written by Adam Thorn | June 23, 2020
Qantas aircraft pictured at Perth International Airport (Source: Australian Aviation)

Health Minister Greg Hunt has heavily hinted Australia’s international borders will remain closed until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

Talking to the ABC on Tuesday morning, Minister Hunt said, “I do think that the international border closures will remain in place for a very significant time.”

The words come after an apparent second wave of cases in Victoria has spooked states into playing down interstate travel, too.

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Minister Hunt’s comments, though, are the strongest hint yet from the federal government that Australia has no ambition to open up worldwide before the end of the year.

It comes despite much of Europe, the epicentre of the crisis, lifting restrictions for tourists to enjoy a summer holiday.

“For the time being we are an island sanctuary,” Minister Hunt said.

“I won’t put a time frame on it because there are differing views as to vaccines, for example, the University of Queensland’s molecular lab is one of the world’s leading vaccine candidates [and] it’s progressing.

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“There are others out of Oxford, the United States, Europe, Asia.”

The minister added that Australia’s hotel quarantine system was the country’s “defence against importing cases from around the world” but reiterated plans to open up to New Zealand.

“It will take a while before the border is open because around the world the virus is accelerating, not decelerating,” Minister Hunt said.

Yesterday, Australian Aviation reported how worries of a COVID-19 resurgence within Australia has led to some states rowing back on opening up to interstate travel.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, for instance, said on Monday that her state’s decision to re-open its border to the rest of the nation on 10 July could be overturned, while South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said he may also reconsider pushing back the open date.

“We don’t want to go backwards, so we won’t be opening our borders if it’s not safe to do so,” Premier Marshall said.

Currently, SA is already welcoming visitors from WA, the NT and Tasmania, with no quarantine requirements.

In WA, Premier Mark McGowan revealed that he had intended to lift the hard border between WA and the eastern states on 8 August, however due to Victoria’s uptick in virus cases, he will now refrain from setting a date.

Finally, the Northern Territory state government has for now decided not to push back its date of reopening its borders to the rest of the nation on 17 July, despite acknowledging the spike in Victoria.

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the spike in positive results down south was just part of the “new normal”.

Additional reporting by Hannah Dowling.

50 Comments

  • Michael D

    says:

    “will remain closed until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.” So how many years has he got in mind ???? One should think before opening his mouth !!!

    • Ray

      says:

      He doesnt know how to…seriously egotistical with no back ground in health.
      Typical of the demigod mentality of our modern australian politicians who tell us what we want without asking us what we need

      • Jennifer

        says:

        Spot on. They work for us so fire them when they forget that.

  • Dennis Goodman

    says:

    I guess NZ no longer is a country Australia wants to bubble with.

    No worries, we’ll look at bubbling with our dependencies in the Pacific, and hopefully Taiwan and Vietnam

  • Murray

    says:

    Europe is opening to tourism, I am not sure why any Australian Minister would make such a statement at this time. Such predictions almost always are incorrect.

    • Adam Thorn

      says:

      One of the great ironies for our industry is that Australia’s success in dealing with the pandemic has perversely made us more wary to open our borders. In Europe, the original epicentre, things are now opening up despite far more cases. We talk a lot about the science, but there’s a debate here about consumer confidence, and how that relates to the narrative delivered by media and politicians.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Adam

      • Franco

        says:

        Nonsense. CHINA is the original epicentre, NOT Europe. Stop spreading lies!

        • Adam Thorn

          says:

          Hey Franco,

          I think we can say the epicentre of the spread has shifted. But the point I was making was that the scale of what happened in Europe far outpaced anywhere else a few months ago. It’s significant, therefore, that much of Europe is now beginning to open up. Especially for the aviation industry.

          Thanks,

  • Red Cee

    says:

    There are two sides to this. On the one side, it is rare for a vaccine to be developed to control a virus. Think the common cold, the flu, SARS, Ebola etc. Therefore, we will be waiting forever. This virus isn’t going to go away, so we need to learn how to live with it. The other side to the story, is that by keeping our cases low, the effects of the virus can be seen in other parts of the world. Those who have caught it, some now have diabetes that didn’t before, some have a heart or lung condition they didn’t have before, some are at a higher risk of stroke. It is the long term effects we don’t know. So, by keeping our numbers low, it gives us more time to study the long term consequences. From a medical point of view.

    • Linda Weaving

      says:

      Most vaccines protect against viruses. Measles, Whooping Cough, HPV, Yellow Fever, Polio- all of these are viruses. Influenza is a difficult case because the virus has a very high mutation rate, enabling it to evolve rapidly. Hence new virsions of the vaccine have to be developed every year. Coronaviruses are one of a number of different viruses that cause ‘the common cold’. Unlike others, though, Covid-19 appears to buck that trend, meaning developing a vaccine should be much easier. That’s why scienti8 are far more confident than is normal. Normally, vaccines do take many years, even decades, to develop & be approved. However, that isn’t because of the science. It’s mostly due to cost & red tape. When the motivation is there, & it certainly is now, governments can accelerate the process enormously. So don’t panic. It’s not going to be ‘forever’.

  • David Lourensz

    says:

    Obviously border closure doesn’t mean that from all the flights in and out.

  • Mike

    says:

    what a silly statement. There may never be a vaccine, like many other viruses like aids/hiv

  • Barry

    says:

    Which may be never, so that’s pretty stupid.

  • CHER

    says:

    no deaths in qld for months. Cases don’t mean anything, it’s deaths that count. Many won’t stand for this nonsense much longer.

    • Linda Weaving

      says:

      So you want to see people die rather than open the borders? Have you looked at what’s happening overseas, where they haven’t? More than 2 million infections just in the USA, with thousands dead & hundreds dying every day.

  • Linda Weaving

    says:

    It seems that people here are not watching what is going on in other countries that didn’t close their borders. Nor do they realise that closing our borders has saved us from deaths in the thousands. Personally, I would be happy to never fly again if it saved even one person from dying. A pity those above don’t feel the same. Why aren’t lives more important than money? Or the ability to go for a jaunt in Bali?

    • Pantera

      says:

      You should stop driving too, in fact, not leavening the confines of your house might be an idea. You could spread any number of illnesses or put any amount of people at risk by doing so.

      I mean, if it saves just one person from dying…

  • Jeremy

    says:

    It’s narrow minded to think we can just close our country to the rest of the world until such a time a vaccine is produced. A vaccine may never be available, we need to be concentrating on how we go about getting on with life post Covid, we need to start living again. The Govt has done all it can to help and advise it’s up to us the individual now to assess the risk as it is with any Virus or Disease. I still remember as a child when HIV was the crisis look how far we have come. life goes on people…

  • Pablo McD

    says:

    All good to hear scaremongering from someone on over $200,000 a year with every comfort to sit and wait, not giving a damn about Australians who have Partners and family overseas, that never get’s mentioned and it’s devastating. There should be allowances made. Hopefully this is just typical negative LNP talk.

    • Ravid

      says:

      you are so right! my fiance is in Austria, I am in Israel, he was supposed to come here so we can have our wedding and leave in here for sometime and build our house. we do not know when we can see each other again and with that talk maybe not at all for a long time.
      I am heart broken

  • Aaron

    says:

    Hey all, as outlined the virus is increasing around the world, now with Brazil escalating like crazy. The world is out of control with this virus, with almost 1/2 million people losing their lives. This virus should not be taken lightly, it’s now speeding up. Good on our politicians for making this call ( if it happens ). Australia is the luckiest country in the world and I say, keep it closed for as long as it takes, business comes second. If we open up our int’l borders when unsafe to do so, we are doomed and business will then suffer two fold – pretty simple. Stop being so short sighted…….

    • Darren

      says:

      Imagine if you had family overseas that you can’t see?
      Imagine if you stopped getting an income because of a pen stroke? (14 day HOTEL quarantine v 14 day home isolation)
      Imagine if we waited for a Vaccine and the only airlines left were state owned airlines from the Middle East and China?
      Imagine if we lost our tourism industry and never got it back as all the businesses went bankrupt?
      There are plenty of countries out there that are already safe enough to travel to, with far less cases than NSW or VIC.
      Let’s start with those SAFE COUNTRIES and work on ways of making travel safe (like pretesting) without the industry killing 14 day jail sentence.

  • Margaret

    says:

    Stupid. So everyone who comes into Australia in the future will have to be vaccinated to get entry then? Lets be realistic. That is not going to happen. Having a vaccine guarantees nothing so enough with the “until we have vaccine rubbish” you can’t make everyone arriving, or within Australia get it anyway. It’s not until we get a vaccine, it’s until the pandemic settles down and the focus is off the politicians, and off the whole thing.

    • Digaridoo Man

      says:

      Technically, the Government could stipulate that it is a absolute requirement to receive the vaccine upon arrival, with travellers informed ahead of bookings to travel here from overseas. In that case, anyone who refuses to accept the delicious needle upon arrival (e.g., an anti-vaxxer KEKW) would be kindly asked to take the next flight back, at their own expense. It’s quite simple really.

      • Jennifer

        says:

        Are you willing to pay to vaccinate all Australians and all visitors ? As a taxpayer you will be footing the bill.

        Stay home if you are frightened to leave your safe haven. It is ridiculous to expect the world to continue on this downward spiral because you and Greg Hunt say we have to wait for a vaccine to be forced on us.

  • Al

    says:

    I can understand the desire to keep the virus out of Australia but by prohibiting Australians leaving our country to visit family, he has produced a Police State worthy of China.

    I want to visit my family and am perfectly happy to pay for my isolation when I return but at the moment I am detained in Australia with no hope of meeting my family.

  • David

    says:

    These politicians are so incompetent and stupid that they are going to destroy not only the country but need someone to protect them from themselves. The reality is this is something that a vaccine (that works) may never be developed for – like the common cold. Seem to be happy making decisions that affect others who actually have skin in the game in the private sector while collecting huge six figure salaries and being chaffered around Canberra and flown around the country at taxpayers expense. Ultimately if someone is not happy with risk, they have the opportunity to self-isolate themselves at home for as long as the wish to do so. Look at what these politicians actually do rather than what they say.

  • Alan

    says:

    Citizens should be allowed to leave Australia without requiring permission but they should pay for quarantine.

    The government should downgrade the overseas travel ban to a ‘do not travel’ advice like New Zealand has.
    At the moment people who need to go overseas in order to take up job offers, visit sick relatives or to migrate, NOT go on holidays, have to apply for an exemption to the ABF and supply multiple amounts of personal information including job offers, medical records and rental agreements. Many have not even heard by their flight date if their exemption has been granted causing stress and anxiety. Over 1,000 people have been denied from leaving the country.

    If quarantine and payment is in place this will surely deter holiday makers from traveling overseas, and allow those who need to leave the country for months or indefinitely, do so without asking permission. If people choose to go overseas for holidays and return in a few weeks time (easily proven by looking at their passports and database), they could enter quarantine hotels and pay for the stay themselves.

    Australians should be allowed overseas as they choose provided they sign agreement to paying for the mandatory quarantine on return when quarantine is still required, and acknowledge that Australian government cannot be expected to save them if they get into some problems overseas due to Covid.

    • Adam Thorn

      says:

      It’s a very powerful argument Alan and one that very few people are making! We know that quarantine is relatively safe… so why not utilise this more to allow a partial step to reopening?

      Thanks for your comment,

      Adam

  • Nina

    says:

    How can they say that, there is so many people waiting for the border to open, we are thousand who leave the country at the beginning in March bcs we didn’t want to be stuck in there as we have family in the world but now our life are in stand by we have nothing in our home country and everything in australia as our partner and friends and the family we have chose, can someone consider that people doesn’t live with partner visa, or doesn’t get married after 1 year of relationship, all we want is to be back to our sweet home, we don’t want to propage the virus we only want to be with our loved one .. make me so sad to be far from them, losing my mind ..

  • Petar Ilic

    says:

    So what does this mean for dual nationals who have parents, children and relatives in other countries? We wont be allowed to leave until vaccine is avaliable? Im pretty sure its illegal to hold people against their will. This cant go ob for much longer

  • Alan

    says:

    Australians should be allowed overseas as they choose provided they sign agreement to paying for the mandatory quarantine on return when quarantine is still required, and acknowledge that Australian government cannot be expected to save them if they get into some problems overseas due to Covid.
    The government should downgrade the overseas travel ban to a ‘do not travel’ advice like New Zealand has.

  • Damien

    says:

    PREP is a very effective vaccine against HIV with contraction of HIV in subjects on PREP are incredibly low (we are talking less than 1%) but if you’re thinking of a cure then no, not cured. However with treatment, people living with HIV can have a zero viral load meaning zero possibility of transferring and no development to AIDS therefore living full, long lives.

  • b

    says:

    Australian government is seriously insane!!! to lock citizens in the country indefinitely is undemocratic!! i know of people trying to leave, who have taken their case to court only for the court to side with the goverment! its time to stand up against them!!

  • b

    says:

    i know of many people who have applied with legitimate reasons, but the govt doesn’t listen!!
    but they have allowed THIRTY THOUSAND ASIAN students into the country, while not allowing citizens to leave!!! time to put a end to this COMMUNISM !!!

  • John

    says:

    From a personal liberty perspective, I have a problem with our government prohibiting leaving the country. I am happy to deal with the entry restrictions and quarantine requirements of the destination country but cannot, for the life of me, see how a restriction on exiting Australia helps Australia one bit.
    Maybe someone has an explanation that I can’t see?

  • Rockie

    says:

    Ask Bill Gates, he has the solution, he has lined the establishment around the world including Australian pollies…. now he is saying if you want the vaccine, govts got to give immunity to big pharma cause you want it so desperately…. hmmmm

    • Jennifer

      says:

      Who in their right mind would listen to not-a-doctor Gates? He isn’t a representative of the people- anywhere.

  • Steve

    says:

    This decision doesn’t appear to be based on the relative risks that we humans encounter every day. When we get out of bed we face risk everywhere.

    I don’t think it is safe to open up to all countries of the world but many areas of the world have relatively low numbers of cases. Can we just see a decision making process on international borders based on quantifiable risk.

    This map put out by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows the geographic distribution of cases. A sensible approach would be to allow travel to countries in the lowest category, less than 20 cases per hundred thousand. This covers large parts of the world and also keeps us safe from the true hotspots. We need safety but we also need balance.

    https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/styles/is_large/public/images/COVID-19-geographical-distribution-world-cumulative-number-14-day-2020-06-28.png?itok=2c-8ri5K

  • Alan

    says:

    (found this great comment on SMH from Leonardo)

    The objective was to flatten the curve so the health system would not be over run.
    That was achieved.. 11 people in hospital.. only 1 of them in ICU.
    The problem now is that panicked politicians are aiming for elimination, which cannot be achieved without enormous ongoing social and economic costs for many years to come.
    We must accept that covid-19 will be around from now on and just deal with it.
    The mortality rate does not justify economic and social destruction.

  • Alan

    says:

    Is it really about the virus? Fiji recorded their last case (18 in total) on the 20.04.2020, nothing for the last 2 months, much better than NZ. They have no active cases, there is no risk of bringing C19 to AU. They proposed a ‘bula bubble’ but our gov is refusing to accept it. There is no cooperation or willingness to revive the economy / aviation industry.

  • Alan

    says:

    On Monday Frankfurt airport opened walk-in coronavirus testing centre. Passengers can pay to take a test. Results are available within hours. Vienna International Airport started offering similar testing more than a month ago. UK is going to start testing program in a few weeks. Iceland (Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport) offers tests upon arrival.

    Why AU gov is not looking at this kind of solution?? How long are they going to keep the borders shut??
    Why is aviation industry doing nothing??

  • Kim Knight

    says:

    I know that it is frustrating not being able to visit relatives etc. We have some little grandkids in NSW we would love to see but our WA border is closed. I would much rather have our situation than what is happening in the US or Brazil or some other places where things have been more lax – and their economies will probably suffer just as much, or more, than ours will. Our leaders have done a good job in the uncharted territory that Covid 19 has thrust upon us and the goalposts keep moving all the time – so, credit where credit is due. The current situation in Victoria is surely a reminder that when things are not handled carefully the virus can easily get out of hand.

  • Nelson Barnes

    says:

    HIV/AIDS is a disease you can avoid by not indulging in sexual contact. COVID 19 is a disease that is spread by the same means as the flue or common cold but is deadly to people over the age of 70 or people with pre-existing health problems. Is it fair to lock up these people so as the rest of the people who are reasonably safe to be able to gallivant around the world & spread virus. Maybe people who have to travel pay for their isolation accommodation on their return with their departing air fare.

  • Spiv

    says:

    Viruses cannot be stopped or killed, they have been around billions of years, together with their bigger cousin, bacterias. They are part of the greater organism that is life on earth. Thay change, mutate and will be here for ever.
    We evolved with the built in ability to cope with them, it is when we are weaker or have our immune system debilitated that we are more at risk.
    People that are at risk should be protected, isolated or self isolating.
    People who are willing to take the risk of contracting the virus, know that there are 99.6% chances that nothing will happen.
    I for one resent the gov for the OUTGOING travel ban, I am ok with the incoming ban and, to a point, with the quarantine.
    Sweden did not close anything, restaurants, gyms, theaters etc. The virus did it’s thing and now they have reached ‘Heard Immunity’ and are continuing happily with their lives.
    As I said, we cannot rid the earth of this virus, we just have to live with it. This totalitarian travel bans are just going to prolong the agony.

    If anybody knows of a group of people or a petition or anyone who is protesting and trying to get the ban lifted or modified, please post it here and I will be only too happy to join the group and give it all my support.

  • Sean McCahon

    says:

    Funny how we havent heard squat about how china is handling their Covid19 (its their virus after all). No latest updates. nothing. Perhaps sitting back watching the world implode and planning a go in for the kill. ? Probably.

  • Jean-Christophe Merlant

    says:

    Every time people go out after isolation, they will have an increased bad luck of being infected with various desease. It was meant to be and will last a long time if the government does not want to let us live with this virus as we have done with previous one . Most people are responsible, pay attention, … ; collateral damage is already important and will increasingly affect the population . 2.56 million people died from pneumonia in 2017. Almost a third of all victims were children younger than 5 years, did it matter more ? Is there a petition going for borders reopening ?

  • Michael

    says:

    As already stated above, people who wish to depart the country should NOT be stopped from doing so. I do not see any other western country actually doing that now.
    I don’t think anyone is calling for open borders to every country, but it is concerning that Aus citizen’s have to ask permission to depart. We are being played for fools here, there is no way the UK, US and EU countries would put up with such draconian measures, so why do we?
    It is up to you to know the risks of where you travel and take necessary precautions. Maintain personal hygiene, use a mask and have a test prior to flying. Even offer to pay for the quarantine if returning during pandemic.
    But ultimately it should be your choice.

  • Lesley B

    says:

    The ban on travelling out of Australia is u reasonable. I have a job, a home and a husband overseas, but have been trapped in Australia for five months. If I want to leave, it should be my choice. As to hotel quarantine, where people come from high risk countries, yes, it should be required. For those coming from low risk countries, and who test negative on arrival, allow them to isolate at home, but with a GPS bracelet (as used in HK and Singapore) and heavy fines.

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