As the number of coronavirus cases in Australia begin to fall, many of us are hopeful of the crisis meeting a swift end. Some may even be thinking about taking a much-needed holiday in the near future. Unfortunately, here’s why you might need to wait a little longer before you give in to the travel bug.
Australia has recorded a decline in the amount of daily infections and consequently prompted discussions on whether travel restrictions could soon be relaxed. But while some of us who live in the hope that our upcoming travel plans might still go ahead, it’s probably time to start thinking about it rationally.
Dr Robert Moss, an epidemiologist at University of Melbourne, told Lifehacker Australia that coronavirus will be a constant threat in society until a vaccine arrives or the virus is eradicated — the latter being an unlikely scenario.
“Unless the virus is completely eradicated — which is extremely unlikely — winding back all of these measures will see case numbers grow rapidly again,” Dr Moss told Lifehacker Australia over email.
“Most of the population is still susceptible to being infected, so returning to normal behaviours and activities would undo all of the hard work to date if the virus were able to spread again. This would be extremely bad for our health and also for our economy.”
This means while it’s still lingering within the community and evidence suggests not everyone is symptomatic, it’s a risk to travel around and potentially spread the virus to areas that have yet to see outbreaks.
Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham has also cautioned Australians from executing any of those plans for the foreseeable future given the unpredictability of the crisis caused by COVID-19.
“My message is now is the time when you can dream and plan but not execute those plans,” Birmingham told ABC News Breakfast.
“You should really be thinking about the type of trips you might take in Australia when restrictions on travel are lifted on travel in Australia, however many months away that may be.”
He added that while domestic travel might be a possibility eventually, overseas travel would likely be off the cards for the rest of 2020.
“I wouldn’t put any guarantees that you could undertake that overseas trip in December,” he said to ABC News Breakfast.
“This is a time where, unfortunately, people can’t undertake holidays and they won’t be able to go overseas for quite some time to come.”
In Tasmania, which was the first to shut its state borders in the country, the amount of infections rose sharply in the state’s north-western prompting a two-week quarantine. It’s speculated a large portion of the dramatic rise in infections can be traced back to a single dinner party, though the Tasmanian Premier has denied there’s any evidence of it at this stage.
It’s just one example of why restrictions are likely going to be around for some time.
Dr Moss added that while the easing of travel restrictions wasn’t exactly within his expertise, based on the current projections of the virus within the country, it’s possible domestic travel could be allowed in the coming months if things continue the way they are.
“It’s possible that some form of domestic travel could be allowed in, say, four-to-eight weeks if we continue to see a decrease in new cases over that time,” he said.
“But I suspect that’s quite an optimistic timeline, and any such decision will probably vary from one state to the next in response to how their local situations evolve — e.g. consider the recent events in Tasmania.”
International travel, however, was another kettle of fish.
“I’d say we’ll have to wait a fair bit longer before international travel restrictions might be relaxed. Australia is currently doing a good job of limiting COVID-19 cases, and that’s not true of all other countries,” Dr Moss explained.
He added that a return to unrestricted international travel into and out of Australia would likely be a long, long way away, just as federal ministers have said.
So, the answer to the question many of us are wondering — can I start organising travel plans soon — is not quite a yes or no but rather a set of conditions.
At this stage, domestic travel is the more likely option but if it’s something you’re planning to think about, organising something far into the future would be a good start. The restrictions, as Morrison has said, are expected to be in place for at least six months and while there are discussions of reducing that, it’s not worth betting an expensive holiday on.
Instead, you’ll need to inject some flexibility into your plans and allow for the potential of second or third waves of coronavirus infections throughout Australia.
It’s a tough reality but it’s one we’re all in together.
With Australia's coronavirus infection rate falling significantly in recent days, the government has begun discussions on when it might consider lifting restrictions. Here's what you need to know.Read more