Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed Australians may need vaccine passports to travel freely interstate in a bombshell interview on Tuesday night.
Mr Morrison told 9News political editor Chris Uhlmann that the first step in opening Australia’s borders was ensuring the safety of travel within the country.
‘To move within borders if you’re vaccinated, how will we prove that, will we need internal vaccine passports?’ Mr Uhlmann asked.
‘All of those arrangements will have to be put in place,’ Mr Morrison responded.
Prime Minister reveals vaccination passport may be needed to travel interstate (pictured: pedestrians walking in Perth with face masks)
The Prime Minister went on to stress that providing proof of vaccination for domestic travel would require a mutual agreement between states and territories.
‘Those public health orders are the instrument that is used legally to prevent Australians moving from one state to another,’ Mr Morrison said.
But Mr Morrison said vaccine numbers were not high enough yet for vaccination passports to be introduced.
‘That’s still some time away,’ he said.
Mr Morrison said a long term strategy to reopen international borders will also be governed by medical advice that ‘will guide every step of the way’.
‘Opening borders will be at a risk that Australia can manage safely and to ensure that we understand the risk environment that we are operating which is changing daily,’ Mr Morrison said.
The Prime Minister confirmed the reopening of international borders would be ‘a gradual process’ to prevent the borders being thrown open and closed.
‘The pandemic is worse this year than last year … and that means we’re going to see an accelerant of variants and other strains which can cause potential harm,’ he said.
Mr Morrison also said the next stages for border reopening would see vaccinated Australians able to travel overseas and potentially quarantine at home and for citizens who had received ‘approved’ jabs to return safely.
Earlier on Tuesday he addressed growing calls from business groups, health officials and his own colleagues to set a framework for reopening the international border.
Scott Morrison said a proof of vaccination would be determined by each state and territory (pictured: person receives dose of AstraZeneca vaccine)
‘I understand everyone is keen to get back to a time that we once knew. The reality is we’re living this year in a pandemic that is worse than last year,’ he said.
‘I understand we want to be able to prepare to get us into a place that when it is safe to do so, that we can make changes in that area, but right now it is not safe to do so.’
Instead, Mr Morrison is trying to shift attention to domestic borders, which he is not responsible for.
He has suggested people who are fully vaccinated should be free to move across the country, regardless of outbreaks or local lockdowns.
‘But also potentially to be able to travel overseas and have different quarantine arrangements on their return, with the sign-off from state chief health officers,’ he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) said reopening international borders will also be governed by medical advice that ‘will guide every step of the way.’
Virgin Australia chief executive Jane Hrdlicka has called for international borders to reopen once enough Australians are vaccinated, even if it means some people die.
The prime minister condemned her ‘somewhat insensitive’ comments.
However, Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner agrees with the airline boss.
‘What she said actually made sense, it’s just the correlation probably doesn’t sound that good,’ he told Nine.
‘But her basic thing was that it’s like the flu. A couple of thousand people die every year from the flu here. It’s going to be the same with the coronavirus, even when people are vaccinated widely.’
Prime Minister confirmed the reopening of international borders would be ‘a gradual process’ a (pictured: person wearing face mask at Sydney International Airport)
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud rejected the comments from the Virgin boss, saying the federal government would take its advice from health officials, not from chief executives of corporations.
He also tried to apply pressure to state and territory leaders.
‘There is no point opening up international borders if we still have premiers with restrictions between states,’ Mr Littleproud told ABC radio.
Gladys Berejiklian fears Australia could lag behind other countries as the rest of the world opens up.
But she will only be comfortable reopening the international border when five million people in NSW – more than half the population – receive their double-dose vaccinations.
At the moment, only one million jabs have been distributed across the state.
‘New South Wales is keen to see us be in a position where it’s safe enough to open our borders as soon as possible,’ the NSW premier said.
The 2021 Budget indicated that international travel would remain off the cards for Australians until mid-next year (pictured: Passengers wearing facemasks arrive at Sydney International Airport)
‘If we get the majority of our population vaccinated, then we can think about opening our international borders, and that’s what New South Wales is working really hard to achieve.
‘I hope if the vaccine rollout is better than anticipated that date can be brought forward.’
Meanwhile, doctors have urged political leaders to strengthen hotel quarantine and establish long-term dedicated quarantine facilities.
‘Over time, Australia must aim to reduce its reliance on hotel quarantine, which was an emergency measure, and transition to new arrangements,’ Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said.
In the interim, better ventilation, strengthened personal protective equipment and vaccinations should be used to improve quarantine hotels.
CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA – THE LATEST
LATEST COVID-19 DEVELOPMENTS:
* Solar energy businessman Govind Kant has become the second Australian to die from COVID-19 in India. He had returned to India for family reasons in April and died on May 16.
* It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison is staring down growing calls from business groups, health officials and his own colleagues to set a framework for reopening the international border.
* Doctors have urged political leaders to strengthen hotel quarantine and establish long-term dedicated quarantine facilities. In the interim, better ventilation, strengthened personal protective equipment and vaccinations should be used to improve quarantine hotels.
* Meanwhile a member of Victoria’s influential Fox family is blaming politics for a ‘frustrating’ lack of progress on a proposed COVID-19 quarantine facility.
* Scott Morrison is also under fire for the woefully slow coronavirus vaccine rollout in disability residential care. Fewer than 1000 disability care residents have received their coronavirus vaccine, despite being included in phase 1a, with more than 25,000 still waiting.
* Australian Grand Prix organisers will need to know by September if the Formula One race can go ahead, or the Melbourne event slated for November 18-21 will be cancelled for the second straight year.
AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NUMBERS:
* There were 3,183,324 doses administered in the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout up to Monday, including 83,187 in the previous 24 hours.
* Of the total, 2,064,601 have been administered by the Commonwealth (an increase of 50,522 in the previous 24 hours).
* 1,763,575 have been issued in primary care (+45,832) and 301,026 in aged and disability facilities (+4690).
* 1,118,723 have been administered by the states and territories, including +32,665 in the previous 24 hours.
* 324,743 have been administered in Victoria (+11,204), 291,550 in NSW (+11,415), 173,093 in Queensland (+2,763), 133,424 in Western Australia (+2,775), 81,460 in South Australia (+1443), 51,098 in Tasmania (+1359), 39,537 in the ACT (+841) and 22,818 in the NT (+865).
AUSTRALIAN CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS:
* Australia reported no new locally acquired virus cases on Tuesday. There were five new overseas-acquired cases: three in NSW and two in Queensland. Four old, overseas-acquired virus cases were also added to South Australia’s tally.
* The national death toll is 910: Victoria 820, NSW 56, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 7, SA 4, ACT 3 (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states).
GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS:
* Cases: at least 163,646,000
* Deaths: at least 3,390,000
* Vaccine doses administered: at least 1,482,773,000.
Data current as of 1730 AEST on May 18, taking in federal and state/territory government updates and Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre figures.