It’s fascinating to see how politicians in different parts of the world are approaching the reopening of borders and lifting of travel restrictions. That brings us to Australia…
Queensland premier wonders why people would travel
Australia has taken one of the most conservative approaches of any country when it comes to managing the coronavirus pandemic, keeping borders closed and heavily restricting travel, even within the country. There’s a lot of debate at this point about where the country should go from here:
- The country has seen its biggest spike in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with a rolling seven day average of over 1,600 daily cases
- The country is (finally) making good progress with vaccination
- Each state in Australia has its own rules, and there are border restrictions between states, given that coronavirus is under control in some states, but not others
- Some leaders are calling for Australia to be largely reopened once the country reaches an 80% vaccination rate, while others are calling for the country to reopen… well, who knows when
- Most recently there had been talk of Australians being allowed to leave the country by Christmas, based on vaccination progress
Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is the premier of Queensland, was asked by a reporter whether she supports the federal government’s assurances that Australians should be able to travel by Christmas. Her answer is quite something:
“Where are you going to go? Are you going to go to India? In Tokyo, you have to sit in perspex screens with masks on and if you remove your mask, you can’t talk while you’re eating. Yes, in Europe, some people are travelling. I think the federal government needs to identify very clearly what are the countries that Australians can travel to, okay?”
Now, in fairness, she would know what it’s like in Japan, because she (controversially) traveled to Japan during the Olympics. You can watch the video of her entire answer below for the full effect.
The issues with Palaszczuk’s perspective
I don’t have much skin in the game (I don’t have family in Australia, and wasn’t planning on traveling there anytime soon regardless), and for that matter I don’t have a terribly strong take on Australia’s stance. I think every country should be able to respond to the pandemic as it pleases, within reason.
That being said, I do feel the need to comment on a few of the things that Palaszczuk states, given that (understandably) Australians may not have much context for what life is like in the rest of the world right now.
First of all, it sure is interesting to me how Palaszczuk singles out India, and it’s hard to view that as not being slightly, well… you know. I’d think that some of the ~620K Australians who have Indian heritage may actually want to go to India and see family.
And that also brings me to my next point, which is that travel isn’t just about tourism. There are people in long distance relationships that have been kept apart for 18 months, babies have been born, others are ill and haven’t been able to see loved ones and friends, etc.
Lastly, Palaszczuk seems to make the point that people may not want to travel, citing that in Tokyo you can’t talk while you’re eating, and plexiglass shields are used. I think it’s important to note that in many parts of the world (including the United States and United Kingdom, two of Australia’s biggest tourist markets), life is largely back to (a new) normal for the vaccinated.
Palaszczuk seems to suggest that India and Japan sound unappealing, and infers there’s nowhere else to go, though something tells me that many Australians might be interested in traveling to places like London, Los Angeles, and New York, among others, all of which are open.
I’m curious to see how the border restrictions plays out in Australia after the country hits the 80% vaccination threshold. Some politicians are in favor of reopening borders immediately, while others aren’t. This is also complicated further by individual states being able to close domestic borders, meaning that we might not see a unified policy.
Queensland’s premier seems surprised to hear that people may want to travel at all, suggesting that India and Japan aren’t fun to visit. This seems out of touch on many levels — there are places in the world that it’s fun to travel to right now, but more importantly, travel goes beyond tourism. There are families, partners, and close friends, that have been kept apart for 18+ months now.
To be clear, I’d respect the premier’s perspective if she said “we’re doing quite well in Queensland and we want to see how things evolve before deciding on the timeline for reopening borders.” But basically saying “crikey, why would anyone want to travel?” is a different story.
What do you make of the comments of Queensland’s premier?