International travel could start sooner than thought
Overseas holidays and international travel could restart again next year if the COVID-19 vaccine rollout goes well, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has hinted at.
It followed reports of potential vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna's candidates, with efficacy rates of more than 90 per cent.
While he indicated it was unlikely to occur in the first half of the year, Senator Birmingham said it was "not impossible" for the airways to reopen in 2021.
"I would like to think that we will see such success in terms of both the vaccines and their effectiveness," he said.
"Then of course there's the manufacturing, rollout, distribution, the uptake, all of the other factors that come into play into how it is that a vaccine could change the way we look at things around this pandemic."
But Senator Birmingham said it would be "challenging" for Australians to travel freely overseas next year, even if they had been vaccinated.
"Let's just see how we go in terms of how quickly we can secure, distribute, get that take up in relation to vaccines, with the confidence and safety that everybody needs in terms of the vaccine itself being safe," he said.
"That's why they all have the standards at present is so important, as well as the vaccine being effective in ensuring that people aren't spreading COVID when they come back."
Australian Border Force boss Mike Outram has indicated that when international travel restarts it will look different and potentially include new protective measures including COVID-19 tests prior to departure from your overseas port and on arrival, airports split into red zones and green zones, as well as hi-tech biometrics to collect data for contract tracing.
There is currently a "one-way travel bubble" which allows New Zealanders to travel to Sydney and the Northern Territory without quarantining, while talks continue about making it a full travel bubble between the trans-Tasman neighbours.
The Pacific Islands, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and parts of China have all been flagged as potential future travel bubble arrangements, once international travel begins to open up again.