The Biggest Load of Rubbish

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian Derides Notion that Borders won't open when people are vaccinated

  • 10:21 AM, 12 May, 2021
Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge - Australia Tourism Photo

by Floyd Cowan, Editor-in-Chief Asian Journeys

Perhaps, like me, you believed that when the vaccinations became widespread, we’d soon put the pandemic behind us and begin to travel as we did before. It turns out that it is not that simple nor  that easy. Governments are taking different approaches to opening up and allowing their citizens to move freely. In the United States they are advising that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks. In Singapore, at time of writing, everyone must wear a mask. With cases spiking, the government has closed in-house dining, social gatherings are capped at two and schools will close on May 19.

Staycations are being cancelled because there can only be two guests per room and they can only eat in their rooms and can’t use any of the hotel’s facilities. 

In Australia, as reported by several news outlets, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) has derided the federal health minister’s warning that mass vaccination won’t lead to the opening of the borders as “the biggest load of rubbish I ever heard”.  

Australian Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt cautioned that international borders could stay closed even if the whole country were vaccinated.  

“That’s the biggest load of rubbish I ever heard,” the Premier told reporters. “The vaccination programme will change our lives. The vaccination programme will allow us to live with COVID in a better way,” she said.  

Vaccinations are changing lives, but not quickly and for some, not at all. In mid-April Singapore was in a period of very few, and often zero, community infections a day. Now, in mid-May the situation has changed. Changed to such a degree that Singapore has gone back to Phase 2 and its tighter restrictions than Phase 3. And then on the first day of the tighter restrictions the government announced that schools would be closed because of the spread among students. 

Well, I wonder how Premier Gerejiklian feels now. When the last Federal budget was delivered in October, the government indicated that Australia's international border would begin to reopen towards the end of 2021. The May 11, 2021 Federal Budget announced that the border is now unlikely to open until 'at least' mid-2022.  The announcement was met with anger, disappointment and anxiety from the travel industry. I await Premier Gerejiklian’s response to my question, posted on her Facebook page.

In mid-May the situation is so bad that Malaysia has stopped interstate travel in the country. And it is unlikely to improve anytime soon as the country celebrates Hari Raya

Hong Kong will ease quarantine for fully vaccinated inbound travellers on May 12. However, fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries will still have to serve seven days in quarantine, down from 14 days.

England has released a list of countries - its Green list - that people from those countries can visit England without being quarantined. Singapore is on that list. The Red and Amber lists are much longer. Before you travel to England you must: complete a passenger locator form; take a COVID-19 test; book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test. You don’t need to quarantine unless you test positive. If you would like to know the up-to-date situation in the UK click Here.

While not everyone is vaccinated or wants to be there are good reasons to get the jab. Vaccinated US citizens will soon be able to visit the European Union.

There are reports of a Singapore-Australia travel bubble to launch in July, and Thailand is also seeking a travel bubble with Singapore.

The aviation industry wants governments to move from a zero-risk approach to managing the risk of COVID-19 to enable travel to reopen. IATA's new Director General, Willie Walsh, in one of his first interviews, says airline CEOs are in the business of managing risk and that the industry needs to see the “same level of risk management approach being adopted by governments.” Read the story Here

No Vaccination, no Vacation

TTG reported May 6, 2021, “At PATA’s (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Virtual VAS Forum 2021, John Brown, CEO of Agoda, (pictured right) said vaccinations both at home and abroad are key for international travel to rebound in the region. “No vaccination, no vacation,” he noted. “The third chapter of getting back really requires the vaccination of a population overall. Asia is pretty far behind. All markets are way down in the single digits while a lot of the West is into the double digits.”  

While I urge everyone to get vaccinated, I don’t agree that leisure travel should be limited to those who are vaccinated. Currently people who are tested and have a good reason to travel can. Vacations are a great reason to travel. 

The only thing clear to me as I write this in mid-May is that governments around the world are taking very different approaches to dealing with the global pandemic. I want to get travelling as quickly as possible, but when I do I want to be assured that travel will be as it was pre- pandemic and I am not going to be met with any unpleasant surprises.

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