After the “year from hell” which saw a pandemic shut down the travel industry and cause unspeakable suffering around the world, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.
There are currently many COVID-19 vaccine trials ongoing, and numerous of these are in their final stages. There’s still no 100% guarantee of a successful vaccine emerging, but this does now seem very likely with Pfizer revealing that its vaccine had been shown to have an efficacy rate above 90% in early trials.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce labelled this “the best news the travel industry has had all year”, saying “the news from the trial is extremely positive, probably better than most people were expecting”. Other travel industry executives shared Mr Joyce’s positive sentiments, as did the stock market which saw a surge in share prices last week.
At the same time, the Victorian COVID-19 outbreak appears now to be under control. As of yesterday, Victoria has not reported any new COVID-19 cases for more than two weeks. That’s absolutely wonderful news!
While the Australian government has teased the possibility of international travel bubbles with other “low-risk” countries, it is unlikely that international travel will fully reopen until a vaccine is widely available. Unfortunately for the many Australians still stranded overseas (or wishing to travel overseas), the outbound travel ban, international arrival caps and hotel quarantine will remain with us for some time yet.
But with coronavirus now under control in all Australian states and territories, almost all of them have committed to reopening their state borders by Christmas. Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed after last Friday’s National Cabinet meeting that all Australian states except WA have committed to this.
National Cabinet also agreed to implement public health measures that would ensure state borders remain open in 2021, ending the yo-yo of borders opening and closing at the whim of politicians.
“[The government’s plan] importantly embeds public health metrics in ensuring that when Australia opens safely it remains open safely,” Mr Morisson said.
After being locked out by every other state and territory for the past few months, Victorians will once again be able to travel to NSW and the ACT from next Monday, 23 November. Travel from Victoria to Tasmania will resume on 27 November, then to SA on 1 December. People in regional Victoria may already fly to the Northern Territory.
Queensland still remains closed to people coming from Victoria or greater Sydney, but these bans are likely to be lifted next month. That would just leave people from NSW and Victoria unable to travel to WA, and Melburnians unable to travel to the Northern Territory (although that could soon change as well).
The pandemic is not over just yet, and we cannot afford to become complacent. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change quickly. But finally there’s some real hope for things to come.