The Australian government has indicated it will maintain firm restrictions on international travel until a Covid-19 vaccine is available and widely distributed, a move that will have a prolonged impact on many Australians and British nationals.
The government is currently considering various scenarios, with one forecast included in the budget predicting the economy will suffer a A$55billion (£30.4billion) hit unless a vaccine is available by 2021, partly because of the long-term absence of international tourism and foreign students.
The budget also includes a A$231million (£128million) support package for Australia's tourism body to help with marketing domestic tourism and domestic business travel, clearly anticipating the absence of international visitors for the foreseeable future.
Data recently published by Tourism Research Australia shows the tourism industry has lost A$33.7billion (£18.65billion) from January to June 2020.
Fifty three per cent of the loss is because of the drastic fall in international tourism, with fewer than 10,000 international visitors arriving in Australia in the June quarter, down sharply from 1.9 million during the same period in 2019.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “International travel, including by tourists and international students, is assumed to remain largely closed off until late next year and then gradually return over time, and a vaccine to be available around the end of 2021 is one of the assumptions in the budget.”
An early vaccine is regarded as one that is rolled out from July 1, providing certainty to households and businesses while promoting consumption and investment.
A June survey of 28 mostly US and Canadian vaccinology experts published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found most were pessimistic a vaccine would be available before mid-2021, but thought September or October was achievable.
Australians wanting to leave the country also face difficulties. Chris Harris, who moved to Australia in 1977 and has his family in the UK, told The Telegraph it was impossible to plan with any certainty.
“I try to go over every year to visit my mother… because of the uncertainty it is impossible to give her any commitment, and she’s quite distressed about it because she is 92,” he said.
“The government is out of touch with the experience of ordinary people. If they want to go, they go… And there is no straight answer out of the government in terms of the future… And there a lot of people in a worse situation than I am in.”
Anna Seaman, an Australian, has been living in London for six years. She was last able to visit her family in Perth in February.
“I got one of the last planes back before everything shut down,” she told The Telegraph. “Going home just doesn’t seem feasible at the moment, with two weeks quarantine and having to pay two grand for it, without even being able to go for a walk. I would like to be able to go home early next year.”
Adam Bennett and his partner came to Australia from the UK on working holiday visas in June last year and stayed with the sponsorship of his employer.
“We had intended to head back in July of 2021, for my partner as she hasn't seen her parents since we left so it is difficult for her,” he told The Telegraph. “Luckily we had not booked anything, so we didn't suffer from cancelled flights and we do love it here in Perth so that definitely helps."
Australia has allowed for an earlier vaccine rollout with doses manufactured locally under deals struck with two pharmaceutical companies.
If trials prove successful, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne, with early access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February 2021.
The government has committed to make any vaccine available for free to Australia's population of 26 million.