Australia – On the Cusp of Reopening

So. An update from Australia. Because there have been some developments here in regards to international travel which you would think would get me excited, but honestly after the last 20 months I am still holding my breath. But there is good news on international travel and our vaccine rollout.

In my previous update a few weeks back now, I talked about the steps to reopening and the way the different states and territories have worked not together but more as their own little chiefdoms throughout this pandemic. I’m really only going to talk about Victoria (where I live) and New South Wales (where you will find Sydney) although I will touch on some other states today.

As far as vaccination numbers are going here, despite the incredibly slow, bungled rollout that barely took place between March and July here, NOW things are very different. International travel and most restrictions to be eased per state and territory when 80% double vaccination occurred in over 16s. Well in New South Wales that happened yesterday!

No-one saw it coming that fast. To top it off daily new infections in New South Wales have gone from 1700 a month ago or less, to around 400 a day at the moment. Factor in that the total over 16s who have received any dose is over 92% in that state, it’s truly remarkable and as a result international travel will resume in/from New South Wales from November the FIRST. This date started as December 18, then November 14, and now November 1! New South Wales has a new premier as Gladys Berejiklian stepped down a couple of weeks back. He’s anti-lockdown and he’s added freedoms for the good people of New South Wales into the plans.

On top of that, they ran a trial on one week home quarantine to conclude that quarantine isn’t viable when you have thousands of people returning to Australia a day, so from November first for fully vaccinated people (must be a recognised vaccine which includes AZ, Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, Sinovac (I think, whichever is the most used Chinese vaccine) and Covishield (the Indian vaccine). A PCR test will be required I believe before and after the flight. This does NOT yet extend to international visitors, this is a little way off but I wouldn’t think more than a couple of months, so look to early January if you’re desperate to visit Australia as soon as is humanly possible.

My state, in contrast, recently passed 256 or so days of lockdown and is the officially most locked down city IN THE WORLD. Despite that, we are still in our 7 day snap lockdown that began in August (I think it’s at around 78 days now) and our figures continue to be a source of despair in excess on many days this week of 2000 new cases a day. Why? Well, lockdown fatigue means that a very hefty chunk of the population are not following the lockdown laws and no-one is coming down hard on those who do. Which is probably fair enough, because after the amount of time we’ve been in lockdown, you can’t blame anyone for that. People have been visiting people in their homes when they aren’t allowed to, mostly on weekends, and by Wednesday or Thursday of the next week we see a sharp jolt (rise) in daily case numbers.

Despite that, we are due to hit 70% fully vaccinated by the end of this week coming -Thursday or Friday, when they will declare us out of lockdown. And we are told we are exiting lockdown regardless of the case numbers, although our hospitals are apparently under extreme stress already so it’s a bit of a worry. But I think the consensus is we can’t keep going like this any more. We also have 88% of over 16s with at least first dose, meaning both NSW and Victoria are looking at being somewhere between 90-95% fully vaxxed (again, over 16s) by the end of November.

The 70% mark here will still mean restrictions. We won’t be able to visit regional Victoria and restaurants can only open to outside patrons – but there may be some changes to those rules, the premier is due to talk on that today. Probably as this post is published. 80% will follow around 10 days later, which might just be in time for my leave. Just a few days but if I can get away from Melbourne for the first time in six months for 1 – 2 nights, that will be special.

So we could see international travel through Victoria reopen by the end of November. And if we can come back without having to quarantine, well that means that I MIGHT consider a short trip next year.

View FROM Parliament House.

The Australian Capital Territory is winning the vax race here, with around NINETY SEVEN PER CENT having received their first dose. If we are all heading this way, and it seems we are, well that’s good news for travel in Australia.

At the same time, one reason adding to the vax numbers is mandates that are in force. By Friday basically unless you worked from home you had to have received your first dose of the vaccine to continue any work that involved working with others. A LOT of the workforce hasn’t been able to work since August with only five reasons to leave your home – grocery shopping, one person per house per day, ESSENTIAL work – banks, healthcare settings, supermarkets and food outlets for take away and delivery, and a couple of other places, you can leave the house to get tested, to receive the vaccine and the final reason is for exercise. You cannot at present go further than 15km from your home. It was 5km for much of this lockdown.

We are going to live with Covid. There will be, I believe, localised lockdowns if really necessary, but I think it’s going to be very hard to impose these on anyone going forward. As much as people want to protect others and themselves, they are just at the point where they can’t do it any longer.

As for the vaccine mandate, I am not comfortable with it. In care settings for sure, in my job 100% I agree everyone must be vaccinated. We will still have restrictions going forwards including masks indoors. It’s sensible. I don’t know how to take people who genuinely don’t want to get vaccinated. I know people and they have a genuine fear of what might happen. There is a portion of the population who simply won’t get vaccinated, and the question is – is that their right? And I say, yes it is. Although I’m a bit on the fence. But if over 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, and as on of the people in that 90%, if we make it safer for the other 10%, that’s fine by me and I think that’s a fair price to pay to live in a free, fair society where we don’t force people into putting something into their bodies that they don’t want to.

If hesitancy was so high that we could only make 60%, well then I would support a mandate. But don’t tell people they can’t participate in the economy. That’s not right to me.

The 11 – 15 year olds of Australia have only be able to get the vaccine for a month. It’s already at 58% first dose. So we will have extremely good coverage. I’ve checked the data from Israel that some say proves the vaccine is ineffective, but to me it’s the exact opposite. Over 60s who are unvaccinated are more than THREE TIMES more likely to die of Covid. And SIXTEEN TIMES more likely than those who have received the third (booster) dose.

The world, and Australia, cannot continue to live like we have over the last two years. Especially Australia. Vaccines are not perfect. But they make a difference. And new drugs are on the market now that can treat Covid once someone has it far more effectively than anything we had 12-18 months ago.

We have to manage it, but we have to live our lives too, and get back to doing the things we love. Including travel.

Thanks for reading my ramblings as they were today. Take care – and May the Journey Never End!

18 thoughts on “Australia – On the Cusp of Reopening

  1. I think you make good points, Andy: I encourage people to get vaccinated, and I agree we shouldn’t force people to do so. HOWEVER, if it doesn’t go against their religion or pre-existing health conditions, getting vaccinated should be something that one ought to consider to help speed up the process of returning to (somewhat) normalcy. In the US, we’re only at 55% fully vaxxed for the entire country, and we’ve more-or-less resumed the usual operations with dining out, gyms, even travel. I think it’s okay that we’re allowing this, but what irks me is that many people do not wear masks while out-and-about, even if fully-vaxxed…and I still don’t agree with allowing international travel just yet, especially to countries that don’t have their people vaccinated. It’s a conundrum at the moment, but I’m hoping that things continue to look up in the upcoming year– best of luck to you and Australia!

    1. That’s 55 percent of the entire population though Rebecca which is I think around where we are at in terms of everyone in Australia. Although I think we’re a fair chance of being close to 80 percent of the entire population buy years end. Some won’t get vaccinated no matter what. Which is a pity but at end of the Day they are still part of the community

  2. It will be interesting to see if the politicians do as they say or is this just reacting to public favour waning of all the restrictions and those who impose and enforce them.
    I hope we are allowed to open up and learn to live with this virus as the alternative is not appealing. I also hope that the divisions within society that have arisen from the past 2 years fade away as it is a cancer created out of fear.

  3. Learning to live with Covid seems to be the key now, its gone way past ever being able to ‘put it back in the box’. Covid is here to stay. I know the response in many areas of Australia was deemed excessive by many, but it feels like their heart was in the right place to put it into as few words as possible. I think at this stage of the game, the onus needs to switch to the individual… there really is so much to say on this, but I will avoid writing an essay! I am glad there is light at the end of the tunnel for you Andy and the possibility to dream about an international trip in the not too distant future. Whether it comes to fruition or not will depend on so much, but isn’t it nice to be able to *consider* making international travel plans again for the first time in more than a year.

    1. So we are here at 70% plus now, and by next weekend it will be 80% and we can travel regional and interstate (probably only to NSW though). They are saying at 90% (which we will make) of people over 12 fully vaxxed we will return to life as much as normal as possible, however basically there will be so much you wont be able to do if you are unvaxxed. So in some ways it really will be an unequal society and we are told its likely to stay that way for much if not all of 2022. We will see what eventuates. Whilst part of me thinks everyone should just get on with it and get vaxxed, I do think that it’s also people’s choice and some have very real fears they won’t get over. people i know. if we are over 90% vaxxed, well, as you said the onus is on the person, the individual.

    1. Hey Katie. Only on TV – the protests have been mostly in the city and very inner suburbs. The news always captures the worst of them but I think they went a lot further than the ones in Queensland.

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