Travel an incentive for vaccines: Hunt
Health Minister Greg Hunt has promoted access to international travel when borders reopen as an incentive for Australians to roll up their sleeves for coronavirus jabs.
The Morrison government is creating a three-principle path for reopening, including travel bubbles, immunisation and potential changes to quarantine rules.
Mr Hunt said global medical evidence about the impact of vaccination on transmission would guide any changes.
“There’s near universal prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“There is a high prevention of infection and re-transmission, but clearly not universal.”
He said a progressive opening would be important for hope and understanding across Australia.
“Is travel an incentive for people to be vaccinated? Absolutely,” the health minister said.
Singapore and Pacific nations are likely to be the next countries with New Zealand-style green lanes allowing quarantine-free travel to and from Australia.
“It is foreseeable that there will be lesser requirements on those who are coming into Australia if they have been vaccinated,” Mr Hunt said.
“That’s a very important incentive, and a point of hope, and a pathway to normalisation.”
Senior coalition minister Simon Birmingham said Australia’s border closure was the most important factor in keeping the virus out of the country.
Despite the budget’s 2022 assumption, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the international border would only open when safe to do so.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for having mixed messages on when borders were likely to open.
He also lashed the coalition for abrogating responsibility to Australians stranded in India under a travel ban, which has jail and fines tied to it, set to expire on Saturday.
“First to lock them out and then to lock them up,” Mr Albanese told a caucus meeting.
His comments come with an Essential poll for The Guardian finding Australians are divided on the merits of the India ban.
The survey of 1092 respondents shows 56 per cent think Australian citizens should be allowed to return from COVID-ravaged India provided they complete quarantine procedures.
Some 22 per cent of the sample was opposed to the idea.
When asked specifically about the ban, 48 per cent said Australian citizens in India should be banned from entering the Australia, while 27 per cent opposed that idea.
Forty one per cent said they supported jail and fines for contravening the order and 33 per cent said no.
Bangalore-based Australian Gary Newman’s bid to scrap the public health order outlawing Australian citizens suffered a major setback in the Federal Court on Monday.
Justice Tom Thawley dismissed the first two parts of the four-pronged challenge.
More than 2.6 million vaccinations have been administered across Australia, while a further 351,000 Pfizer doses have also arrived from overseas for medical regulators to test.
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