At least 113 private international flights have landed in Australia since April last year, despite the country’s closed borders and quarantine caps limiting arrivals.
New data from Cirium, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, showed the US was the origin for 94 of the trips, some of which have involved actors jetting in to film Disney’s Marvel films, as well as those on important business trips.
Currently, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and a limited number of visa holders are allowed to enter Australia, with international students, most temporary migrants and tourists banned altogether.
Those who do enter are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for which they have to pay up to $3,000.
However, exceptions are being made to foreign nationals that the government believes will generate income for the economy, such as actors and comedians, and many are allowed to organise home quarantine rather than hotel isolation.
A breakdown of the data, which runs from 1 April 2020 to 26 May 2021, also shows New Zealand and Indonesia were the countries of origin for five private flights, while there were three from Papua New Guinea, two from Vanuatu and one each for Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
Celebrities who have visited Australia after borders closed include popstar Ed Sheeran, businessman and TV personality Alan Sugar and actors Zac Efron and Natalie Portman.
Earlier this month, the annual budget hinted international borders won’t fully reopen until the middle of 2022.
The budget papers read, “Inbound and outbound international travel is expected to remain low through to mid-2022, after which gradual recovery in international tourism is assumed to occur.”
The news comes amid increasing worries over delays to Australia’s inoculation program, caused by 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. The British-created jab has been linked to blood clots in a very small number of recipients.
Australia is also battling apathy problems with the vaccine program, with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro suggesting people were unwilling to risk getting a jab because life has resumed without restrictions in many areas.
He urged residents to “do your bit” and said Australia needs to jab 70 per cent of the population for the virus to be kept under control.
“The reality is, and I have heard it myself, [people say] there is no virus so why bother or why take the chance?” Deputy Premier Barilaro said.
Last week, Qantas even suggested it could offer loyalty points or vouchers as an incentive for Australians to get vaccinated.
Qantas’ chief customer officer, Stephanie Tully, said, “We’re still thinking through how this would work, but the incentive could be Qantas points, Qantas or Jetstar flight vouchers, or status credits for frequent flyers.