Whilst Australia is ramping up the vaccination roll out to ensure that the ambitious goal set by the government to have everyone vaccinated by October is met, so that the borders can safely open and people can start travelling again, Qantas boss Alan Joyce has warned tourists and students could abandon Australia if border closures remain a long-term plank of pandemic proofing.
Mr Joyce believes Australia could lose investment if travel restrictions remain a key part of responding to the virus.
“The travellers will go elsewhere. The students will go elsewhere,” he told the Australian Financial Review’s business summit.
The Qantas chief executive said the Australian public must be conditioned to move away from a zero-case goal as the pandemic rolls on. “We need to be part of the world economy again,” he said. “What are we waiting for?”
Mr Joyce questioned why the focus shifted from ensuring hospitals were not overwhelmed to stamping out any local transmission.
“The one thing we could have done is say we close down the borders without any exemptions, and that would have been terrible for Australians stuck overseas,” he said. The influential CEO also reiterated his support for a world health passport system, saying countries will require vaccination proof to allow people in.
“We already do it with yellow fever,” he said. Mr Joyce wants an end to inconsistency between states, a two-day warning before borders shut and a timeline for border restrictions to end during the vaccine rollout.
He also raised a vaccine check for pubs and restaurants with similar measures raised by some industry figures.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident Australia remains on track to have offered every adult at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by October. That is despite the initial rollout being delivered slower than planned and a handful of problems including an overdose of two elderly patients in Brisbane.
The head of Mr Morrison’s department Phil Gaetjens criticised the attention being given to vaccine rollout problems. “I would put those issues in the category of noise,” he told the Senate’s coronavirus response committee. “Above that, there is a very strong signal that the vaccine is going out OK.”
Labor senator and committee chair Katy Gallagher said the problems were serious, describing the hospitalisations as traumatic. “You’ve got to accept an overdose in terms of confidence with the vaccine rollout, kicking off with overdosing two elderly Australians, isn’t really an optimal outcome,” she told Mr Gaetjens. “That’s not really just noise.”
She said the issues were more damaging to confidence than focus on problems. But Mr Gaetjens disagreed. “The more that people go on about small issues like this, that affects confidence more than the actual impact of those small issues themselves,” he said.
What do you think, is Mr Joyce right?
By Joe Cusmano