Since 20 March last year, the travel industry has been reeling in despair following the ban on travel to and from Australia apart from those meeting the criteria for limited travel exemptions.
The dream of international travel was once again re-ignited this week as Qantas announced that ticket sales for international flights would be available from 1 July, 2021. The Australian carrier said that its decision was based on current projections of a vaccine rollout.
Australia’s federal government, however, has not decided on its final position with Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack refusing to commit on when the international border will fully reopen and the international travel ban which was set to expire at the end of 2020, has been extended until at least 17 March, 2021.
“Operations and ticket sales on particular routes are commercial decisions for airlines,” Mr McCormack said in a statement this week. “International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians.”
While ticket prices which had burgeoned out of control are affordable again ($1,340 for Sydney-Athens return flight in August), epidemiologists and vaccine experts warn that travellers should not rush to pack their bags for an overseas holiday just.
Scientists say that Australians should not expect their life to return to ‘normal’ in 2021 despite the availability of a coronavirus vaccination as effectiveness can only be measured once 60-70 per cent of the population is immunised.
Tania Sorrell, chair of the Australian Academy of health and Medical Sciences COVID-19 expert committee said vaccines are helpful but not a “magic bullet” and warned that “we will be living with this for at least the next 12 months” and longer. “It would be six, 12, 24 months, we simply don’t know (how long protection might last),” she said in regards to the vaccination.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicated that flight levels won’t return to normal after vaccines become available. Prior to the pandemic, statistics were at record levels causing concern that they were more than the planet could handle. After a year of COVID-19, IATA has indicated that the elvels people will be flying likely won’t match those of 2019 for at least a few years. “Trust in international travel will take years to rehabilitate,” IATA predicts.
Greece reopened to some tourists on 1 June 2020 before re-imposing lockdown measures since 7 November. On 7 January, strict new quarantine measures were announced for all arrivals, including Greek nationals, and domestic travel within the country is being monitored.
For travel to restart, efforts need to be co-ordinated which are hard to do domestically let alone at an international level.