Vaccination no guarantee of open borders, says health minister

Australia’s international border could remain closed even after the vaccination rollout is complete, according to health minister Greg Hunt.

As Denmark announced it was completely suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to blood clot concerns, Mr Hunt told a press conference that vaccinations were not the only consideration when it came to reopening Australia’s international border. He said he had discussed the matter with the federal secretary of the health department, Professor Brendan Murphy.

“Vaccination alone is no guarantee that you can open up,” Mr Hunt explained. “If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders.

Read more: Another vaccine ruled out

“Opening up, as has been set out by the prime minister and the chief medical officer, is based on a series of factors.

“We still have to look at a series of different factors: transmission, longevity and the global impact. And those are factors which the world is learning about.”

Mr Hunt pointed to the trans-Tasman travel bubble as a sign that things were moving in the right direction when it came to international travel and also pointed to the possibility of other travel bubbles opening up in the near future.

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Australians will be able to travel quarantine free to New Zealand from this Sunday as part of the travel bubble arrangement.

“We’re already opening to New Zealand,” Mr Hunt said. “We’re then looking at other countries within the Pacific and within the region that are potentially low-transmission environments.

“This year will be about progressively opening up. That’s what the prime minister has tasked his department to work on, with all of the states and territories.

“[We will need] a series of safety milestones as we progress forward, which allow us to open up.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said opening up borders might require Australians learning to tolerate a certain number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“There would be cases of COVID if the international borders were lifted,” Mr Morrison said.

“We’d have to be confident and comfortable that it would be in Australia’s interest to have potentially large numbers of cases of COVID, knowing that it would not lead to the horrific outcomes that we saw.”

Read more: Are over 50s being treated as second-class citizens?

In other vaccination news, The New Daily is reporting that the prime minister has backed down and will support the shift to mass coronavirus vaccination clinics.

“We’ll need to change our rollout to go to mass vaccination options and that will have to be done in partnership with states and territories,” Mr Morrison said while announcing that National Cabinet would now meet twice weekly to tackle the vaccination rollout issues.

The prime minister was also hopeful that offering all Australians at least one vaccination shot by the end of the year could be possible, despite the decision to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine on under 50s.

“We will have a substantial number of vaccines in the fourth quarter of this year. We would like this done before the end of the year but that will only be possible if we can ensure mass vaccination programs are in place,” Mr Morrison said.

When do you think Australia should reopen its international borders? Do you think it will happen this year?

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Written by Ben



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