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Will Queensland’s international borders really open this week?

written by Hannah Dowling | January 18, 2022

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8FE departs from Brisbane, at Sunset (Michael Marston)

Queensland’s aviation industry is getting ready to take off once the state’s international border restrictions finally fall after 90 per cent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

Many reports have surfaced suggesting that this goal could be just days away, with Queensland reporting 88.72 per cent of its eligible population is now fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, 18 January.

However, with the state’s vaccination rates currently trending downwards, questions have been raised about when, or even if, Queensland will actually hit the mark.

On Tuesday, Queensland Health announced that 88.72 per cent of its eligible population was fully vaccinated, however this number is up just 0.01 per cent from Monday, when it stated that 88.71 per cent had received both doses of the COVID vaccine.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the number of second doses received crawled up by 0.6 per cent, from 88.65 per cent on Friday.

While current estimates suggest that Queensland will hit its 90 per cent target on Monday, 24 January, should the daily trend continue downwards, this date could be pushed back later in January – the date has already slid from 21 January to 24 January since last week, due to dwindling vaccine figures.

Despite the significant slow down in second doses being taken up, there is a glimmer of hope, given that 91.55 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have at least received their first dose of vaccine.

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Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said on Monday that currently, the goal is to encourage “all of those people who have had their first dose to get the second dose”.

Miles said that perhaps, second dose rates have slowed due to the busy Christmas and New Year period, and he hopes that Queenslanders will get back out there and roll up their sleeves again.

“I suspect some people whose three- or four-week mark fell over the Christmas-New Year holiday period, they might have been away [or] they might not have wanted to get their second dose at that time.”

However, infectious disease specialist Dr Paul Griffin from the University of Queensland said earlier that “there definitely is” a risk that Queensland may never hit its 90 per cent target, meaning the state government could be forced to ease its international travel retrictions without hitting the magic number.

“That last 10 per cent becomes increasingly challenging to change their mind because, obviously, they’ve resisted for this long for whatever reason.

“It comes down to making sure we continue to propagate the right messages about the benefits of the vaccine.”

“Our policies and all our recommendations have to be able to adapt to the situation,” he added.

Dr Griffin told the ABC this week said that trends overseas have shown that vaccination rates “slowed towards the end”, however Queensland’s vaccination rate has slowed down “a little more than expected”.

However, he said this trend is likely “multi-factorial”, particularly given the time of year, giving hope that Queensland could push on to 90 per cent.

“We did see a lot of sites closed down over the holiday period, so I think access declined to a degree,” he said. “Then of course, we saw the borders open, and Omicron really take off.”

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