Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack hailed today’s opening of the trans-Tasman bubble by arguing that the country “must” agree on similar deals soon with other countries.
“But we will do it based on the best possible medical advice, so whether that’s Singapore next or one of the Pacific island nations … we’re in those early preliminary discussions as the vaccine rollouts happen,” said Deputy PM McCormack on Monday morning.
The comments come amid concerns Australia’s initial plan to open its international borders in October will slip due to delays in the country’s vaccine program.
The issues have been due to a shift in policy to prioritise administering the Pfizer vaccine to under 50s rather than the Oxford vaccine that the country has in far greater supply. It follows worries the British-created jab could lead to blood clots in a very small number of recipients.
“We can, we will and we must open other bubbles,” Deputy PM McCormack told Sky News. “We want to make sure that we get international travel back to some sort of normality while taking the best possible medical advice.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to close things down. We will take baby steps.”
It comes after Prime Minister said at the weekend the country was in no rush to open up, but would prioritise allowing vaccinated Australians to travel for essential purposes and return into a home quarantine.
“The issues of borders and how they are managed will be done very, very carefully, and must be done in partnership with the states and territories in terms of how the quarantine program works,” PM Morrison said.
Last week, Health Minister Greg Hunt surprisingly claimed Australia won’t necessarily open its international borders as soon as everyone has been vaccinated.
Minister Hunt said the government would also have to consider how long protection from the jabs lasts and how they affect transmission. “Those are factors which the world is learning about,” he said.
The next day, his colleague Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade, added the next “logical step” would be expanding Australia’s travel bubbles where it was “safe to do so”.
“Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam have all been mentioned as potentials in that area. And I think that is likely to be the systematic approach that we take,” he told the ABC.
The concerns over the rollout stem from Australia having secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab compared with just 20 million of the Pfizer alternative.
Qantas’ chief executive has repeatedly insisted Qantas’ policy is that international travellers must be vaccinated.