Australia’s tourism minister has conceded that the country’s international borders are unlikely to open in 2020.
Simon Birmingham, minister for trade, tourism and investment, said on Wednesday that border closures have been crucial to Australia’s success in largely preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s sadly very unlikely that our health crisis is likely to facilitate an opening to international travel this year,” he told the Australian Financial Review (AFR).
“I hope that we can see breakthroughs in vaccines and other approaches to management that might change that, but right now Australia’s world-leading success in managing COVID and suppressing it is significantly underpinned by the tight border restrictions that we have in place. And I suspect that they’ll stay there for some time yet.”
As of Wednesday afternoon there had been 7,370 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, up from 7,347 on Tuesday.
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According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), international arrivals in Australia were down 99 percent in May compared to May 2019.
However, as domestic borders around the country begin to re-open Birmingham used a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday to urge Australians to do their “patriotic duty” by taking holidays in the country.
According to ABS labour force data, about 30 percent of jobs in the accommodation and food services industry have been lost since strict coronavirus restrictions were introduced in mid-March in the country.
Australians have been prevented from holidaying interstate during the pandemic by border closures in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The governments of South Australia (SA) and Queensland have announced that their borders will be re-opened to Australian travelers in July with the Northern Territory (NT) expected to follow suit.
Western Australia (WA) continues to resist pressure to open its borders with Premier Mark McGowan declaring on Tuesday that he will make the call when he gets “health advice that says it’s the right time to do so.”
Even if all borders are re-opened an ABS survey published on Tuesday found that more than 60 percent of Australians were uncomfortable with the prospect of returning to flying on planes while COVID-19 remained in the community.
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