Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has taken a shot at Qantas over the airline's decision to resume selling tickets on international flights this week.
The move, as first reported in Executive Traveller, sets up a July 1 reboot of Qantas' international network, which was grounded in late March 2020 as the scope of the coronavirus pandemic became clear.
McCormack, who is also Minister for Transport, responded today that the government and not Qantas would decide when international travel could resume, and that would be when it no longer posed a risk to public health.
"Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government," he said. "International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians."
McCormack also said "the Australian Government is working on travel arrangements with countries, such as New Zealand, that have low community infections."
Qantas says its decision to reopen bookings to Asia, the USA and London for travel from July reflects its own expectations of a vaccine rollout and "that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021."
The airline added that should any flights not go ahead, would-be travellers would receive a refund, be booked onto another service or receive travel credits to use against a future flight.
McCormack's colleague and Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia "is on track and ahead of schedule" in its vaccine approvals process and he now expects all Australians will be "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19 by October 2021, an advance from the previous target of the end of 2021.
The federal government has a purchasing agreement for 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 54 million doses of the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million of those to be manufactured in Melbourne.
Each vaccine will requite two doses per person – one starter and one booster, administered 2-4 weeks apart – and pending approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, are expected to be available from March.