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Little joy for travel agents in latest public opinion poll

February 17, 2021 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Politicians have been reminded of where the votes lie, with a new poll showing that a sizable majority of Australians feel that the country should halt overseas travel and keep its international borders firmly shut until the pandemic is under control globally.

With over 70% of Australians feeling that way, it would be a bold government that dared to experiment with international “travel bubbles” (of the two-way, quarantine-free sort) before the coronavirus is well and truly vanquished worldwide.

Australia’s ban on outbound travel (subject to limited exceptions) along with caps on international arrivals to allow for two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine, have been among the most controversial aspects of the country’s Covid response.

Recent elections – in Queensland and New Zealand – have shown that the public wants above all to be kept safe. Voters will reward leaders seen to be doing that.

It is often said that international travel is a rite of passage for Australians, “part of the Aussie DNA”. It’s also the sector where travel agents earn most of their money. But the Essential Research poll, commissioned by the Guardian, shows people are prepared to sacrifice overseas travel in exchange for safety from Covid.

The poll, published yesterday, presented respondents with the following statement: “We should keep our borders closed until the pandemic is under control globally.” Results showed 71% of respondents agreed with that statement and most of them (43%) said they “strongly agreed” with it. Just 12% disagreed with the statement.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

An encouraging element was that 67% of respondents felt that after the vaccine has been rolled out, “Australia should slowly and safely reopen its borders”.

Support for sealing the borders often includes taking a hard line against stranded Australians. Virulent mutant strains of the virus are cropping up, more contagious and potentially more lethal, and hotel quarantine is the weak point.

Australian Border Force data, reported by the Australian, shows that more than 253,000 citizens, residents and visa holders have travelled to Australia since the hotel quarantine system was introduced in late March 2020. Some 73,000 citizens of other countries have arrived as well. More and more Australians abroad are deciding to return home – the flow seems unending.

Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has said the only way to eliminate the risk of infection spreading from hotel quarantine into the community is to stop all international arrivals completely.

The Guardian Essential poll also showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s personal approval rating has increased to 65%, the highest level since last November. Morrison is comfortably ahead of his opposite number, Labor leader Anthony Albanese, as preferred prime minister (52% to 24%) and Morrison won’t want to squander that lead. A federal election is widely tipped for later this year, though it is not required to be held until 2022.

MEANWHILE, in encouraging news on the vaccine rollout front, consignments of the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine have arrived in both Australia and New Zealand. Other countries, including the US and Britain, are already well into their vaccination programs, while Australia is waiting to start. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed today that from Monday, roughly 35,000 frontline workers will be vaccinated in NSW over the next three weeks. Across Australia, the program will continue throughout this year.

Israel is the world leader in rollout and deployment of the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine – and in Israel’s biggest study to date, the country’s largest healthcare provider reported on Sunday a 94% drop in symptomatic Covid-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Written by Peter Needham

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