International borders could reopen in June 2021

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is waving a big stick at state and territory governments, with a plan to limit ‘knee-jerk’ reactions on state and international border closures.

Australia’s biggest business lobby group says the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine will make it difficult to justify snap border and economic restrictions it estimates are costing $170 billion a year, says The Age.

The group wants international restrictions to lift as early as June, in line with the vaccination rollout and as inoculations increase. Earlier this week, the government extended Australia’s international border restrictions by another three months to 17 June 2021.

“Now that we know much more about the virus and have a clear vaccination rollout plan, there should be no excuse for knee-jerk reactions,” said BCA chief Jennifer Westacott.

Read more: What happens to regional travellers when borders snap shut?

The group also wants to see the number of people vaccinated reported on public health updates, instead of total positive case numbers as is currently reported.

More financial support is also needed for industries yet to recover from the recession, it states, adding that the cost of the pandemic had been “monumental”, and has already increased government debt by $1 trillion.

While the state border closures and travel restrictions may have been proportionate to the health threats faced by communities, they have been damaging for industries relying on consumer confidence and interstate travel.

The BCA wants domestic borders to be kept permanently open and capacity limits on venues and other health orders to be lifted, as soon as the earliest phases of the vaccination rollout are completed.

Read more: Our nation’s health is more important than your holiday plans: YLC member

Once the majority of adults are vaccinated, the group says international borders should reopen to Australians wishing to return, as well as international students and skilled workers, after which “vaccine corridors” should open to low-risk countries.

“[The vaccine rollout] is our best opportunity to open key sectors of the economy and keep them open as more people are protected,” said Ms Westacott.

“Instead of another year of stop-starts and uncertainty, we’re calling on National Cabinet to use the vaccine rollout to give people the ability to plan and get on with opening the country back up.”

Read more: JobSeeker cuts to hit older Australians hardest

The group says the tourism and accommodation operators have been hit hard by the pandemic and, with the Morrison government closing the door on JobKeeper supplements, is concerned there won’t be enough support to prop up struggling sectors such as tourism.

The government has considered offering embattled businesses revenue-contingent loans at low or zero interest rates, but the BCA says such a scheme is “not a viable option”.

Do you think it’s reasonable to reopen international borders as soon as young and older people are vaccinated? With which countries would you like to see vaccine corridors opened?

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