Fully vaccinated Brits may soon be allowed to travel quarantine-free to dozens of sun-soaked countries across the globe – but Australians face the very real possibility of being trapped on a ‘prison island’ for years.
Ministers in the UK on Thursday revealed travel rules for double-jabbed Britons could be eased from July 26, which would allow them to take international holidays almost anywhere they pleased.
These freedoms are in stark contrast to the ongoing cycle of shutdowns and re-openings in Australia, where snap border closures, draconian restrictions and lengthy lockdowns have become the norm.
And it’s all down to Covid vaccination rates.
A meagre five per cent of the Australian population are double-jabbed, compared to 46 per cent in the United States and 47 per cent in the United Kingdom.
That UK figure could give Britons the freedom to travel to countries around the world – some on Australia’s doorstep – but we are still banned from flying there.
The UK’s high inoculation rate has helped millions start to enjoy a new Covid normal, with a string of coronavirus restrictions set to be lifted on July 19.
Europeans are enjoying the easing restrictions and a return to relative normality (pictured, Britons enjoying the England vs Germany Euros match in Spain on Wednesday)
And while Britain is still recording thousands of new cases daily, hospitalisations and deaths are on a downward track due to an efficient vaccine rollout.
The UK Government is still advising against travel to and from ‘amber list’ countries, with people returning to Britain from those nations forced to quarantine for 10 days.
But British bureaucrats want to ease the current international travel rules in time for the start of their school summer holidays, in just over three weeks time.
They have flagged scrapping quarantine requirements for the double-vaccinated, which could give UK residents the right to travel to more than a hundred countries without needing to go into isolation on return.
There are also growing hopes that the ‘green list’ of safe countries will be significantly expanded, with Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Singapore, Malta, and the Turks and Caicos Islands all considered ‘safe’ destinations
Tourists are seen arriving in Mallorca on Wednesday (pictured) with European travel slowly opening back up
A UK minister told The Times it is hoped the ‘amber list’ change for the fully-vaccinated ‘will be in place by the first week of the summer holidays’ – which is less than a month away.
Back in Australia, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for international border closures, as the jab rollout remains in tatters and holiday-starved Aussies begin to reach the end of their tether.
Previously, the country had prided itself on effectively eradicating local transmission of the virus through swift border closures and snap-lockdowns.
On Wednesday, 26,068 new cases were recorded in the United Kingdom – a rise of almost 70 per cent in a week, and the highest figure since late January
However there is growing confidence in the UK Government that the vaccination rollout has severely weakened the link between infections, and hospitalisations and deaths
Now, with 12 million Australians under strict stay-at-home-orders and the Indian Delta variant continuing to spread across Sydney, calls have been renewed to stop the crippling lockdown strategies.
Australians have been locked in their own country for 15 months and counting – with the government unwilling or unable to provide a timeline for reopening and experts predicting it may be 2024 before travel gets back to the pre-Covid norm.
But in welcome news for holiday-hungry Australians the ‘magic numbers’ at which vaccine thresholds will be set for international travel could be revealed in a critical cabinet meeting on Friday.
While Australians suffer a wave of Covid outbreaks and increasing lockdown restrictions, the rest of the world is easing back to normal (pictured, an empty McDonalds Jones Stadium in Newcastle, NSW, on Thursday night for the Sydney Roosters match against Melbourne Storm)
Ministers in the United Kingdom have announced current international travel rules could be eased from July 26, which would allow holidays to Bali (pictured) with Australians still banned from flying overseas
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will finally seek agreement from premiers and chief ministers to eliminate lockdowns, and grant domestic and international travel exemptions for double-jabbed Australians.
Mr Morrison told The Australian that it was important to think of the benefits of a vaccinated population and start calculating much-anticipated vaccine thresholds.
‘It’s time to start laying it out for the Australian public. It is imperative that the premiers, chief ministers and I address that question’, he said.
‘It comes down to the medical science and what are the magic numbers.’
The PM said the Federal Government had already done modelling on the UK Alpha variant and would now apply the same testing on the Indian Delta variant in order to set a threshold marker going forward.
He noted that the patience of the Australian public had helped officials achieve what they had done so far to protect lives and livelihoods.
Scrapping the quarantine requirement for the double-vaccinated could potentially reopen dozens of countries for foreign travel with the UK including Croatia, Malta and Singapore (pictured, passengers check in at London’s Heathrow)
This week the Prime Minister encouraged people under 60 keen for the AstraZeneca vaccine to talk to their GP, despite the jab previously declared unsafe for younger people (pictured, passengers at Sydney Airport before lockdown)
Australians face many more months and perhaps years of isolation, as the sluggish Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues to spark snap-lockdowns and border closures (pictured, an eerily quiet Sydney CBD as the lockdown rolls on)
‘We now need to get to the next level. The package the public deserves needs a consolidated agreement from all of us,’ he added.
The controversy surrounding border closures began last year when the Federal Government optimistically predicted Australian would re-open to the world in October 2021, after the adult population were predicted to have gotten the jab.
Mr Morrison also emphasised there would be no escaping the ‘prison island’ until herd immunity was reached – with around 80 per cent of the population needing to be vaccinated before reopening the country’s borders.
Some 40,000 Australians remain stranded overseas due to an arrival cap of 6,370 a week with residents in the country still isolated from their families abroad.
Australians had previously been warned that reaching a population-wide vaccination target would not guarantee the recovery of international travel.
Mr Morrison argued the United Kingdom was recording more than 4,000 new cases a day despite 77 per cent of adults having received one dose.
Last year, the Federal Government optimistically predicted international borders would be open in October 2021 after the adult population got the jab (pictured, Scott Morrison)
Part of the reason for the delayed re-opening is the glacial pace of Australia’s vaccine rollout, with a meagre 7.4 million doses administered nationwide (pictured, Aussies queue for the jab at Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday)
The prime minister said international borders would remain shut for as long as was needed to protect health and the economy.
‘There’s no medical advice that I’ve received at any point in time, which gives a magical number of vaccinations that enable you to provide that level of assuredness to Australians about when that can occur’, he said.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said at current rates it would take a long time to vaccinate the world.
‘It will take a huge commitment from developed, rich countries that have vaccine manufacturing capabilities to share that with the whole world,’ he said.
‘That’s how we get out of this together.’
‘There’s no medical advice that I’ve received at any point in time, which gives a magical number of vaccinations that enable you to provide that level of assuredness to Australians about when that can occur’, Scott Morrison said earlier this month
But now, Australians have been warned reaching a population-wide vaccination target will not guarantee a federal government decision to re-start international travel (pictured, Europeans enjoy the Spanish sunshine on June 29, with travel resuming in many countries)
However, with less than six per cent of the population fully vaccinated and the more infectious strain on the loose, Australia’s vaunted ‘zero Covid’ strategy is on precarious ground.
Australia’s suppression strategy has kept the nation’s borders closed and seen states go into lockdown over a handful of cases.
Part of the reason for the delayed re-opening is the glacial pace of Australia’s vaccine rollout, with a meagre 7.4 million doses administered nationwide.
One in five of the country’s doses are going spare due to a lack of interest in getting vaccinated, with new data revealing 19 per cent of vaccines have not been used.
A mere five per cent of the Australian population are double-jabbed, compared to 46 per cent in the United States and 47 per cent in the United Kingdom (pictured, a woman in the UK being vaccinated)
Scott Morrison has declared international borders will remain shut for as long as was needed to protect health and the economy, while double-jabbed British travellers can look forward to a sun-soaked summer of quarantine-free travel (pictured, Scott Morrison at the G7 on June 12 with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson)
Almost 7.4 million vaccine doses have been administered to date, but only a small fraction of people have received both jabs.
A mere five per cent of the Australian population are double-jabbed, compared to 46 per cent in the United States and 47 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Israel has vaccinated almost 60 per cent of its population followed by Chile with almost 55 per cent, while almost half of Britons and Americans have rolled up their sleeves, according to a graph compiled by Our World in Data.
Australia is also trailing behind Latvia, Turkey, Mexico and Colombia and even New Zealand, which only uses the Pfizer jab.
While those countries with a better-managed rollout are already opening up to overseas travel and trade, Australians face many more months and perhaps years of isolation, with even domestic holidays ruined by national border closures.
UK Ambassadors have been instructed to start negotiations with EU member states to ease restrictions on British travellers. Pictured: Tourists in Magaluf Beach in Calvia on June 28
The UK government’s plan to scrap the quarantine requirement for the double-vaccinated could potentially reopen dozens of countries for foreign travel in what would represent a massive boost for the struggling tourism and aviation sectors (pictured, passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport)
Back in Britain, the government’s plans to scrap the quarantine requirement for the double-vaccinated could potentially reopen dozens of countries for foreign travel.
The extent of the possibility of trips will be determined by border closures in the European capitols, with the news coming as a reprieve for holiday-starved Brits.
UK Ambassadors have been instructed to start negotiations with EU member states to ease restrictions on British travellers who could soon travel quarantine-free.
The government is still advising against travel to and from ‘amber list’ countries, with people returning to the UK from those nations forced to self-isolate for 10 days.
There are also growing hopes that the ‘green list’ of safe countries will be significantly expanded, with Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Singapore, Malta, and the Turks and Caicos Islands all considered ‘safe’ destinations.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is even pushing for the lifting of mask laws in almost all settings to help return life to ‘as near normal as possible’.
Key social distancing measures, including the one-metre rule, the rule of six and the 30-person limit on the size of outdoor gatherings, are also set to be scrapped on the new ‘Freedom Day’.
However, Covid cases are continuing to surge across the country with 26,068 new cases recorded on Wednesday – a rise of almost 70 per cent in a week, and the highest figure since late January.
By contrast, daily hospitalisations due to Covid were running at 263, up by just 6.4 per cent in the last week and far below the January peak of 4,579 in a single day.