Sydney, Australia, Jan 18 (efe-epa).- Australia is likely to keep its borders closed for most of 2021 even if the majority of its population of 25 million is vaccinated in the coming months, the country’s federal health secretary said Monday.
“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions. Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” Brendan Murphy told public broadcaster ABC.
About 75 percent of the residents of Australia, which will launch its Covid-19 vaccination program in mid-February, intend to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a survey conducted by consultancy Roy Morgan last month.
On the other hand, the Australian authorities, which have been extremely effective in contact tracing, are trying to determine the safety of the vaccines following the death of 30 elderly people, with underlying health problems, in Norway after receiving the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
The former chief medical officer of Australia, which fears the import of new infections with highly contagious strains such as those detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, added that the strict quarantine program for overseas travelers “will continue for some time.”
Australia has kept its international borders closed since March 2020 and only allows the entry of its residents and citizens and some of their close family members as well as those of diplomats and other exceptions.
Over the weekend, the Australian government announced that it will operate 20 charter flights to repatriate some of the country’s more than 30,000 residents and citizens stranded abroad after Emirates announced that it will suspend flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Anyone entering the country must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine as is the case for tennis players who will take part in the Australian Open, scheduled to be held between Feb. 8 to 21 in Melbourne.
Seventy-two players have been confined to their hotel rooms in Melbourne, without being allowed out during the agreed five hours to train, after nine Covid-19 cases were detected among passengers of the three flights on which they traveled.
Australia, which reported zero local Covid-19 infections on Monday, has recorded for more than 28,700 infections, including 909 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.
Most of these were recorded during the second wave of the coronavirus in the country caused by a breach in security at quarantine hotels for international travelers in Melbourne, the second most populated city in the country. EFE-EPA