Sydney, Australia, May 6 (EFE).- Australia will keep its international borders closed into 2022 due to uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and new variants of the virus, the country’s finance minister said in an interview published Thursday.
“Given uncertainties that exist not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of Covid, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness, these are all considerations that mean we won’t be seeing borders flung open at the start of next year with great ease,” Simon Birmingham told The Australian in an interview.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had initially expected to re-open international borders in October after completing the country’s vaccination campaign, recently said that he has sought the advice of experts on whether people who have been vaccinated can leave the country. Residents have been banned from leaving the Australia since March 2020, and currently need an exemption to do so.
But one of the biggest problems for his government is the delay in the vaccination rollout due to supply chain problems and vaccine side effects, which has resulted in the distribution of some 2.5 million doses to date, far fewer than the 4 million initially planned by the end of March.
Australia, which closed its borders in March 2020, has practically returned to normality apart from brief and localized lockdowns when new outbreaks are detected.
The opening of international borders is one of the concerns of immigrants in Australia, where according to the last census in 2016, half of its 25 million inhabitants were born abroad or have at least one parent from other countries.
Since last week, the government has also banned the entry of its citizens from India and on Friday night it announced penalties of up to five years imprisonment and fines of up to AU$66,000 ($51,100) for people returning to Australia after having been in the South Asian country in the 14 days prior to arrival, which has led to a legal battle over the measure’s legality.
For now, Australia has a travel bubble with New Zealand, which allows quarantine-free travel between the two nations, and is contemplating similar agreements with Singapore and Hong Kong.
Australia has recorded some 30,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, including 910 deaths. EFE