So hey all. I write this one in the merry month of August, the last winter month in Australia and well, as I write (possibly not as this is published though) Australia has its three biggest states in lockdown. Australia has had its border almost completely closed now since March last year, and for quite a bit of that time even travel between different states has been impossible. Melbourne itself has spent over 200 days in lockdown in that time period too, which is a little under half the time. The upshot of that is that even regional travel has not been possible for a lot of the time.
The travel industry worldwide has been, no doubt, one of the if not the most affected industries by the pandemic. And here in Australia we have not seen any international tourism now for the best part of eighteen months save a few months when a travel bubble operated between Australia and New Zealand.
Australia and New Zealand are pretty much as far as I can see two countries that have maintained the harshest restrictions for the longest times. Also, we are two countries that have had, compared to the rest of the OECD countries, the slowest vaccine rollouts. And that’s because of two main factors – at least in Australia – firstly the lack of Covid cases in the first twelve and a bit months of the pandemic, and secondly dreadful management by the government. Without the numbers that say the USA or the UK have had to deal with, Australia has been content that Covid wasn’t really going to affect us so much.
The first few months of this year saw maybe 100-200 cases to the end of April nationwide. Possibly less. We had ‘doughnut’ day after doughnut day here in Victoria. That’s no new cases in the community.
Enter the Delta Variant. And things have changed, especially in New South Wales and Sydney. The Premier there wasn’t keen on lockdowns, and didn’t respond quickly, and they are seeing hundreds of cases a day. As a result it spread to Queensland and Victoria, and indeed to South Australia who managed with a quick lockdown to stamp it out.
In Victoria though we needed longer, although we haven’t exceed 29 new cases in a single day. But these outbreaks have FINALLY kick started the vaccination campaign. Because we have been told in no uncertain terms that lockdowns will continue until around 70 percent are vaccinated. Then they will be less likely. It’s not until 80 per cent is reached though that they will be used ‘only as a last resort’.
The good news is that we are now around 30% vaccinated, which considering where we were at the start of July is a huge improvement. That’s FULLY vaccinated. And some are predicting 80% is reachable by Christmas. To me I think we’ll get to a point and then it will slow right down as has been evidenced in the USA, which got to around 47% fast and then the next 3-5% have been really slow. The talk is though that the laws around vaccinations are going to be tough, almost ‘France-like’. Already they have declared you need to be vaccinated by September to working in an aged care home, and companies have declared that their workers will need to be vaccinated to hold onto their jobs. The plan is that from 70% reached (and this is, I should say a figured based on the eligible population rather than the total population) those who are vaccinated will have accesses and privileges that those who are not won’t.
80% is the figure where international travel reopens. One can only imagine tourism operators are pushing for that as soon as possible. So here are my worries. Firstly, I see travel opening up in so many places online at the moment it’s enough to me incredible jealous. Even Thailand is committed to a deadline in a couple of months for opening up to full tourism.
Certainly the threat of the unknown – a new variant for example – is one that plays on my mind. But the governments – state and federal – have been so dependent on lockdowns keeping deaths down that they will look foolish when suddenly we have larger numbers and more deaths. Which is dangerous politically and not a risk they will want to take. But at the same time, they won’t want the damage to the economy to continue either. At it’s WORST in Australia we had two days with over 700 new corona cases nationwide. THE WORST. Well, it’s going, I would suggest, to get much hugher than that. With 80% vaccination, less death as a percentage, less hospitalisations as a percentage, BUT the numbers will be there. How does it manage that?
Tourists are not going to flock to Australia if they still have to quarantine for two weeks. And how that will be approached is not clear. Even returning Australians may still need quarantine in some way, shape or form even if vaccinated. If you are coming to live or study, okay maybe you would be okay with that. But Australia is a long way to come to isolate for 14 days which could be half or more of your holiday. There will be no short stays if this is requirement.
And with some states, the number of cases that has prompted a state-wide lockdown is as low as ONE. I have little faith to be honest that lockdowns won’t happen once we hit 80%. They won’t take the risk. You don’t want to come here and face that possibility. I’m sure that if we had the cases we have today, sure, they wouldn’t, but we can be SURE that the daily case numbers will be significantly higher. What if you are in Australia and they snap the border shut? Well, yes you will be able to leave I imagine, but you don’t want to go through this.
So even once open, Australia wouldn’t be an attractive choice for travel I reckon, because you couldn’t trust you’ll have a smooth experience once here. You certainly will need to be vaccinated and with certain vaccines. No Sputnik V or Sinopharm. So honestly, would YOU take the risk?
I don’t really know if and when we will get to 80% and we will actually see how this is going to play out. But this year I have honestly thought about my future and whether I would not be better off, sometime in the future admittedly, moving permanently overseas because freedom of movement is important to me. At the same time we have done an exceptional job in Australia in minimising the HEALTH impacts directly related to Covid. But there are other impacts too.
As for international travellers, Australia for the next five years make look too much like a risky proposition. And that is going to continue the hurt and pain for tourism operators here who have already copped it very badly. And there won’t be government assistance forever too.
What are your thoughts? Would you travel to Australia when the borders reopen. IF they do lol. (that’s a sad lol). Thanks for reading today. Take care – and May the Journey Never End.