State’s stinging rebuke of Qantas’ holiday plans
An ambitious plan by Qantas to send Australians on global holidays by July 1 has been shot down by the Queensland Government, which has warned against any national move to relax quarantine laws.
Queensland's stance comes as the Morrison Government confirms it is investigating "potential alternate entry and quarantine arrangements" for returning Australians after Qantas' plan to restart international routes within months was revealed.
There are fears the national carrier's plan could put pressure on the capacity of the hotel quarantine system, with the Department of Health now assessing whether protected travellers could enter the country without spending 14 days locked in a hotel.
"The Australian Government is considering mechanisms for recognising an international immunisation certificate for COVID-19, and potential alternate entry and quarantine arrangements for returning Australians who may have been vaccinated if it is safe to do so," a department spokesman said.
"These considerations are based on the expert medical advice on vaccination effectiveness and on how best to manage the ongoing risk of transmission from international arrivals."
Queensland's Acting Health Minister Mark Furner said international borders was a matter for the Commonwealth Government, but he warned against any weakening of the quarantine system.
"The number of travellers returning to Queensland carrying the most highly infectious strain of the virus means there's no room for complacency," he said.
All international arrivals, except those from New Zealand, must complete a 14-day stint in hotel quarantine.
The first quarantine-free Air New Zealand flight is scheduled to land in Brisbane from Auckland this morning.
Passengers on flight NZ147 will become the first to arrive in Queensland and not quarantine after the two countries established a travel bubble.
Qantas' plan to send Aussies to overseas would require the federal government to lift the existing ban on Australians leaving the country without a medical, business or compassionate exemption.
The Commonwealth has also capped international arrivals at just over 7000 people per week, making it unlikely residents will be able to travel overseas for holidays while fellow Australians struggle to return home.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has distanced the government from Qantas' plan, declaring
more research into the COVID-19 vaccine's effectiveness was needed.
"I'm not going to make any predictions on specific time frames," he said.
"What we don't know is how effective it will be at preventing transmission … so that's what will determine the pace."
Mr Hunt tipped the nation would see a "progressive opening up".
"There won't be just one day where all of a sudden everything's open," he said.
"The world's going to have to work through this."
Australia's inoculation is tipped to begin in March, with frontline workers in hotel quarantine, international flight crew and border officers the first in line.
Health workers and aged care facility residents will follow ahead of a wider age and priority-based rollout which is expected to conclude in October.
Airport Retail Group Director George Dravis operates nine food stores, cafes and bars at Brisbane's international and domestic terminals.
Mr Dravis said the opening of international borders would allow his three international terminal stores, which have been closed since March 25, to again open.
"It would show us a light at the end of the tunnel," he said of Qantas' plan.
"We'll open back up again because international is a significant chunk of my business, about 50 per cent.
"The international airport is in hibernation and we're just sitting and waiting for the go-ahead."
Mr Dravis said all 126 of his staff in both terminals remained on JobKeeper due to the low number of shifts available.
Originally published as State's stinging rebuke of Qantas' holiday plans