Australia is rushing into a Christmas border crisis where international travelers can pour in for a celebratory lunch – but families will still be divided across state lines.
Prime Ministers have indicated that most states will remain cut off from the rest of the country even as the country reaches its target of 80 percent of adults with double vaxx.
Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland, Mark McGowan of Western Australia and Daniel Andrews of Victoria have indicated that state borders will remain closed in the future.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s national plan says the country’s international borders could open to incoming visitors once the target has been hit.
That opens up the prospect of some Australians reuniting later this year with family and friends returning home from New York, London and Singapore.
But many could be barred from welcoming family from Perth, Brisbane or even Melbourne.
Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk has vowed to ‘stand strong’ on her state’s borders and painted a grim picture of the future under the national plan
Western Australia’s Mark McGowan said the state’s border will likely remain “a few months” after the country hits its 80 percent double vaxxed target
There are two obvious factors behind the bizarre situation.
The first is that prime ministers have put in a lot of political mileage to keep Covid out with closed borders.
Both Palaszczuk and McGowan won decisive election victories in 2020 with their tough approach.
And both want to emphasize that their populations are still living relatively normal, Covid-free lives, despite the strange ‘snap seven-day lockdown’.
The other issue is: can the health systems of the Covid-free states handle it?
Former Federal Opposition Leader John Hewson
Former federal opposition leader and policy expert, Professor John Hewson, said this will be the real problem. “There he comes home to sleep.”
The ex-politician pointed to the situation in Dubbo, in regional New South Wales, where an already struggling health system is under pressure from Covid.
Prof. dr. Hewson said health system capacity would be his main focus if he were a state leader.
The Australian Medical Association today demanded an urgent reform of the public health system to deal with an ‘imminent’ Covid health crisis.
But former Chief Deputy Health Officer Nick Coatsworth tweeted: ‘There is always more to be done, but the preparedness is much greater than it was and now we face new challenges.’
A look at the country’s differing stances on reopening and the national plan
NSW is likely to hit its 80 percent double vaxxed target by mid-October – freeing incarcerated Sydney citizens (above) from severe restrictions
Palaszczuk, McGowan and Andrews each made clear their stance on state borders this week.
The national opening plan doesn’t say anything explicit about state borders — meaning they’ve never agreed to tear the border down when most of the country is vaxxed.
Palaszczuk sounded the alarm on Thursday about dozens of deaths a day in a 70% double-vaxxed Australia.
The Premier of Queensland was accused of misrepresenting the Doherty Institute’s modeling underlying the national plan in a provocative tweet.
She claimed 2,240 people will die from Covid each month, six months after the population is 70 percent doubly vaxxed.
“If NSW is the model of what lies ahead for all of us, then serious discussions are needed,” she tweeted.
“Doherty Institute modeling predicts that even if 70% of the population is vaccinated, 80 people will die every day six months after the outbreak.”
Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt pushed back, arguing that “selective misuse of the Doherty modeling violates good faith and damages public trust.”
Earlier this week, Ms Palaszczuk also suggested opening the borders could endanger Queensland’s children.
“You open this state and you let the virus in here and every child under 12 is vulnerable, every child,” she told parliament on Wednesday.
She promised to “stay strong” at the borders “until I can get every child vaccinated.”
However, no vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 12, anywhere in the world.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt labeled Ms Palaszczuk’s tweet as ‘selective abuse of Doherty modeling’
Western Australia’s Mark McGowan has also suggested that his government will maintain the borders “several months” after the country meets the 80 percent target.
McGowan will wait until an “overwhelming majority” of the state has been vaccinated.
He was furious when Attorney General Michaelia Cash claimed that the power of states to close borders would diminish if the country is 80 percent doubly vaxxed.
McGowan furious: ‘Why are they (Morrison’s government) on a mission to bring Covid to Western Australia to infect our public?’
You may be allowed in, but you still can’t go out: The federal government has extended its travel ban until December 17
Victoria dropped “Covid Zero” this week – the state’s long-held idea that the virus can be eradicated.
But the state’s cautious approach to the pandemic is likely to continue.
When asked whether the border with New South Wales might remain closed well into 2022, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews replied bluntly: ‘Yes’.
He said that if there were an epidemic in NSW but Victoria had few case numbers, “I would probably be advised that (we wouldn’t) allow full free movement.”
The idea of dropping Covid Zero and welcoming the virus will also be daunting for leaders Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
And a Christmas abroad is not really an option.
The federal government announced today that Australians will not be allowed to leave the country without an exemption until December 17.
What are Australia’s four stages to opening up the country?
A. Vaccinating, preparing and testing (from 14 July)
Arrival caps halved to 3,035 per week; early, severe and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available in apps like Apple Wallet
B. Post-vaccination phase (when 70 percent will be stung, expected by the end of this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced disabilities; limits for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger limit for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; limited entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation Phase (when 80 percent is pricked, time not announced)
Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting of all outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers; no limits for vaccinated arrivals; increased limits for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles arise with countries like Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not disclosed)
Unlimited arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and unlimited arrivals for unvaccinated people with pre-departure and on-arrival testing