Hope tourists may return before Christmas

Asia's Tech News Daily

Tourists, migrant workers and international students could start flooding back to Australia before Christmas.

© Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS People have been told to be cautious as the nation reopens to limit pressure on the health system.

Returning Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be the first quarantine-free arrivals into NSW when borders reopen from November 1.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week kiboshed state government hopes tourists and other travellers would be allowed in from that date.

But his Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan is optimistic that national double-dose vaccination coverage of 80 per cent will give the nation more options.

“Returning Australians first,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“Then my view is that before Christmas we can start looking at the tourists, the international students, the working holidaymaker visa holders and our Pacific workforce.

“We’re going to need that workforce to drive our economic recovery as we come out of this pandemic. They’re going to be an absolute key to it.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has ruled out following NSW in scrapping quarantine for international arrivals.

But he said the two-week requirement, which has been in place nationally during the pandemic, would be reduced.

His state recorded 1903 new infections and seven deaths on Monday, just four days out from Melbourne’s lockdown ending.

NSW lifted more restrictions and schools started to reopen with the state’s daily case increase dropping to 265, while five people died.

Australia has fully vaccinated 67.9 per cent of its population aged 16 and over, while 84.6 per cent have received at least one dose.

Former deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth said it was time to move away from the existing quarantine system.

The infectious diseases expert said he was OK with the NSW decision but it needed to be monitored for safety.

Dr Coatsworth also said prudent steps out of lockdowns should be taken to protect the capacity of Australia’s already-stretched health system.

He said the nation had a world-leading vaccination rate to underpin reopening.

“I’m hoping that the hospitalisations themselves will stay down,” he told the Nine Network.

“Cases may well increase as we start to mingle in the community, there’s no doubt about that, but it is hospitalisations and intensive care admissions that we need to worry about.”

Infectious diseases pediatrician Robert Booy said exuberant young people would pass coronavirus on as the country reopened.

“We’re going to have a surge of COVID outbreaks of the unvaccinated, there is no doubt about that,” he told the Seven Network.

“We will continue to have deaths and probably a few more for the next month and then it will settle down.”

Professor Booy said the decision to lift lockdown in Melbourne later this week was taking a bigger risk than Sydney because of higher case numbers.

“They’re going to get real stress on the health system, on the hospitals, on the ambulances, on the intensive care units,” he said.

“They’ll be able to manage, but probably only just. It’s going to be really tough on them.”

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