Overseas travel for Australians may not fully resume until the second half of 2022, a longer-than-anticipated closure that would be a blow to the airline and tourism industries.
In an interview with Sky News early Friday, Federal Trade Minister trade minister Dan Tehan said his “best guess” on when Australia’s international borders would reopen ”would be in the middle to the second half of next year, but as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic things can change.” Tehan said.
Australia’s international borders have been closed since early last year to stem the spread of Covid-19, even though an air-travel bubble with New Zealand opened last month.
Delays to the country’s vaccination program and the emergence of highly contagious coronavirus mutations, especially in India, are hampering plans to lift travel restrictions more broadly.
The Australian government initially expected inoculations to be largely complete by October, though the rollout has been pushed into 2022 because of medical complications tied to the AstraZeneca jab.
Tehan’s comments call into question Qantas’s plan to open most of its international network from late October.
A spokesman for Qantas said Friday the airline is still sticking to its October 31 target to resume flights on almost all its overseas routes, though said the carrier is prepared to push back the date if necessary.
“The hope would be that we might be able to see a few more bubbles set up, and we’d be able to see more travel being undertaken, but we’re in a pandemic,” Tehan said in the Sky News interview.
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