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Australia’s borders may not open even if whole country gets jab: Health Minister

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt has said that Australia’s borders may remain closed even if the whole country has received the covid-19 vaccine.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s national borders have been closed since March 2020, and will remain closed at least until the middle of June. In January, Australian health authorities even said that the country’s borders may not open in 2021, even with the vaccine rollout.

This has reportedly left more than 36,000 Australians stranded abroad, unable to return home due to a limited number of quarantine spaces.

This border closure also prevents Australians from travelling overseas, unless they are travelling to New Zealand or have an exemption.

“Vaccination alone is no guarantee that you can open up,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told a news conference on Tuesday.

“If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders. We still have to look at a series of different factors: transmission, longevity [of protection] and the global impact. And those are factors which the world is learning about.”

Hunt went on to say that it would be a group decision made by ministers and the Prime Minister as to whether Australia would ever depart from its “zero-tolerance” approach to covid-19. He added that the current approach was to “progressively” open up society.

Additionally, Dr. Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, urged all Australians to take the jab, adding that closed borders and the country’s quarantine regime were a key part of Australia’s covid response.

“One of the reasons Australia has been able to manage this virus better than almost any other nation is that we have been able to control our borders and this will remain the case until we are certain that Australians will be safe,” he said.

Lucy Morrell from strandedaussies.com, which calls the stranding of Australian citizens abroad a “large scale human rights breach”, said these words left her worried for the future of those Aussies trapped abroad.

“When I hear statements like those…I feel a fear I hope is irrational,” she said.

“The fear is that citizens and permanent residents still stranded overseas because they’re neither rich enough for business class tickets nor poor enough for DFAT assistance will be left stateless indefinitely.

“As Anzac Day approaches, it’s anathema to think we’re leaving Australians behind in a pandemic, but the people experiencing it can’t come to any other conclusion.”

Health experts globally have repeatedly pointed out that covid-19 is here to stay, and that even with vaccines, like the flu, the virus will be with us for years to come.

In January, Nature magazine asked more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus whether it could be eradicated. Almost 90% of respondents reported that covid-19 will become endemic – meaning that it will continue to circulate in the global population for years to come.

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