Outgoing Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Outgoing Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Overseas travel unlikely before vaccine

Outgoing Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has offered a grim outlook on the future of international travel, warning Australia's borders were unlikely to fully reopen until a vaccine is found.

Prof Murphy spoke to the ABC ahead of his final National Cabinet address today.

"To fully open the international border without any quarantining or any restrictions probably will require a vaccine to be able to adequately protect vulnerable people in the community," he said.

"Until that happens, we're going to have some sort of border measures … and if we don't get a successful vaccine in the relatively near future, then we have to re-evaluate."

However, Prof Murphy, who becomes Secretary of the Health Department next month, said he was increasingly optimistic a vaccine would be developed.

"I'm getting more confident," he said.

 

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy will step down from his role on Friday. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy will step down from his role on Friday. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

"There's so much effort going into vaccine development now, and there are literally hundreds of candidate molecules and a number that are in clinical trial at the moment, and I think it's likely we will get a vaccine.

"How effective it will be, we don't know. There may be more than one vaccine and so there's a lot riding on that at the moment."

The Federal Government closed its border to China five months ago, and enforced a ban on overseas travel in March.

While Australians have been hopeful international travel may soon return given the recent easing of restrictions, Prof Murphy joins a chorus of voices warning hopeful travellers against getting too excited.

Last week, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said it was "more likely" Australians will be banned from overseas travel until 2021.

And yesterday, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed overseas travel would be almost non-existent for a while yet as he revealed a drastic three-year plan for the airline's COVID-19 survival.

 

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce expects skeletal operations for international flights for a while yet. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce expects skeletal operations for international flights for a while yet. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Mr Joyce said while domestic travel was starting to recover, international services may only be back to 50 per cent of pre-virus levels by mid-2021.

In the meantime, the airline will mothball its flagship A380 jumbo jets, which it uses for long-haul flights, in a US desert facility.

"(For) international, we have to be realistic about it and in staying with what's happening in the rest of the globe, it is probably an extended period of time before we'll open up those borders," Mr Joyce said.

"We're parking the A380 for at least three years because they don't have any use, we think, during this period of time."

But it could be a different story for the much-hyped "travel bubble" with New Zealand. A Qantas spokesperson told news.com.au flights to New Zealand are expected in the coming months.

 

A travel bubble with New Zealand is Australia’s best bet for international holidays anytime soon. Picture: David Clark Photography
A travel bubble with New Zealand is Australia’s best bet for international holidays anytime soon. Picture: David Clark Photography

 

Mr Joyce said a trans-Tasman travel bubble could operate with aircraft mainly used for domestic flights, including the Boeing 737 and A330.

"It is a massive market and volume," Mr Joyce added. "The New Zealanders are the second largest tourism group to come to Australia. And Australians are the largest tourism group to go to New Zealand.

"So this is really, really good for tourism of both countries and we are hoping with the pent-up demand we are seeing there for people to fly into destinations that could generate some good volumes and, potentially, before July of next year, which we believe is potentially feasible."

Mr Joyce said a recent Jetstar sale on domestic and New Zealand flights showed the massive interest from Australians in visiting our trans-Tasman neighbour.

 

Originally published as Overseas travel unlikely before vaccine



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