Fairfax reports that the federal government has announced an extension of Australia’s international border closure until at least 17 June 2021. This will mean that Australia’s international border will have been shut for 15 months after initially closing on 17 March 2020.
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had recommended the three-month extension of the emergency measures due to factors including the emergence of new COVID-19 variants overseas.
Labor criticised the move, with shadow foreign minister Penny Wong claiming some 40,000 Australians are still stranded overseas. Wong has called on the federal government to take control of quarantine to allow more people to return.
Meanwhile, Australian Industry Group CEO, Innes Willox, has selfishly called for Australia’s international border to reopen as soon as possible in order to reboot the mass immigration program:
“The AHPPC has advised the Australian government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants” [Greg Hunt said]…
Australian Industry Group chief executive, Innes Willox, called for “certainty” on the international borders “as soon as possible.”
“We are a migrant nation. Our skilled migrants have been a huge driver of our economy… Without migration – and the certainty around it – we are diminished economically and culturally.”
With new highly infectious UK and Brazil COVID strains spreading like wildfire across the world, there is little prospect of Australia’s international border reopening this year. To do so would threaten public health and the economy, and would risk emulating the diabolical circumstances witnessed in Europe and the Americas.
Given COVID will likely remain with us for years, it makes sense for the federal government to invest heavily in national quarantine facilities modelled on the highly successful Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory.
Such investment would be money well spent as it would move quarantine out of high density city hotels into low density regional facilities, thus lessening the risk of outbreaks and city-wide lockdowns.
Moreover, such national facilities would leave Australia well placed to respond to inevitable future pandemics and health crises.
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