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Virgin backs CEO’s view Australia must learn to live with COVID

written by Adam Thorn | May 17, 2021

Jetstar group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka at a business lunch in Sydney.
Jayne Hrdlicka speaking at a business lunch in Sydney.

Virgin Australia has backed CEO Jayne Hrdlicka’s comments suggesting a vaccinated Australia must accept some COVID cases and open its borders before mid-2022.

In a statement released on Monday evening, the business said, “We must learn to live with COVID-19 in the community in a way that protects the health and safety of our people but also opens Australia up to the rest of the world.”

Hrdlicka’s earlier words were the most significant yet from a major public figure advocating that the country will have to accept some illness from COVID when borders open, with vaccines unlikely to prove 100 per cent effective.

Virgin’s statement refused to criticise Hrdlicka, arguing, “We have and will continue to work closely with both state and federal governments to support the health and safety of the Australian community.

“We agree with state and federal leaders that eradication of COVID-19 cannot be the goal for our country. The question is not if, but when we will be sufficiently vaccinated to protect our people and our hospital system to open our international borders.”

Those words echoed closely those of Hrdlicka, who is reported to have said, “We’re forgetting the fact that we’ve learnt how to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and we’ve got to learn how to live with this.

“COVID will be part of the community, we will become sick with COVID and it won’t put us in hospital, and it won’t put people into dire straits because we’ll have a vaccine.


“Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu.”

The Sydney Morning Herald report made it clear she was only advocating opening Australia with a “large portion” of the country vaccinated, leaving most vulnerable people protected.

Her comments appear to echo the view of Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton who said in a private seminar that the country must “make a call on letting [COVID] run” once vaccinations have been widely offered.

“We need to somehow communicate to the public that we’ve gotten to a place of complacency because we’ve driven transmission to zero but we will face newly emerging transmission, and a critical juncture where we need to make a call on letting it run,” he said.

“I think that’ll be when we’ve got as high vaccination coverage for the adult population as we can possibly get to, so everyone being offered it, and building that confidence in vaccines as much as we can … then we need to really say ‘look, we can’t sit on our hands here’.

“We all need to step up to get vaccinated in order to open up Australia to world travel and arrivals so that our education sector, tourism sector and all of the other kinds of compassionate reasons for us to see family and friends overseas can come to the fore.”

Last week’s budget papers strongly hinted international travel will not fully resume until mid-2022, stating, “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.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s revelation on Tuesday evening then forced Qantas to push back its plan to restart long-haul flights from 31 October to December.

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.

Comments (7)

  • Ben


    “Learn to live with it” is what you see in India and Brazil right now. “Learn to live with it” means “let vulnerable people die so we can make money”.

    • Adam Bosworth


      Exactly right. What she (and most of the other people calling for opening Australia before it is safe) are really saying is people must die so we can make more money.

  • Nicholas


    What she said might need to be said, but definitely not by her!!

    Comes across as greedy, self interested and callous.

    Also the timing is dreadful, the disastrous (no other word is accurate) experience with the first flight out of India by Qantas only days ago should have made her pause….

  • stuart lawrence


    we must all try to get injections and another debate on we are all going to be runed by covid 19 my ancestors came out in 1823 and they had to cope with even operations without ansethia and all manner of diseases

  • Adrian P


    Time to bring back the A380.
    Short term, top deck negative tested passengers and lower deck positive tested passengers.
    Medium term, top deck vaccinated and lower deck not vaccinated.

    Airports currently have domestic terminals and international terminals perhaps in the future we need to plan for separate quarantine and non quarantine terminals.

    • Paul


      The virus can be cabin-spread spread by the air-conditioned ‘air’, so your idea won’t ‘fly’.
      Just read the report on chartered ‘plane which flew DEL-HKG several weeks’ ago, where 88 out of 89 pax tested positive for covid on arrival HKG.

      There’s no possible separation on board an aircraft.

  • Simon Hawkins


    Kudos to her for being the one to say it. It is absolutely true, and of course her statement was made in a context which, of course, people have decided to ignore. We’ve always had infections, some folk WILL die, and we simply can’t live in this artificial bubble forever. It’s not (just) about commerce, it’s about life. The rest of the world is there to explore, trade with, learn from, and partner with.

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