Scott Morrison in no rush to further ease borders as trans-Tasman travel bubble finally opens



Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes to set a pathway for future international travel when the national cabinet meets, but he is in no rush to open borders.

Two-way travel between Australia and New Zealand began from Sunday night and one of the tasks for the national cabinet is to plot how international borders can ease further in the coming months.

But Scott Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world.

The global death toll from coronavirus has now topped three million people and the prime minister said issues around borders and how they are managed will be handled very carefully.

“But the idea on one day that everything just opens, that is not how this will happen,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

“It will be happening cautiously and carefully, working very hard on the medical and health protections in place because I’m not going to put at risk the way that Australians are living today.”

The national cabinet will meet on Monday, the first of twice-weekly gatherings following the vaccine rollout being thrown into disarray after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over the age of 50 after blood-clotting was linked to younger people.

Included in discussions will be changes to Australia’s vaccination policy, including state vaccination implementation plans, in the wake of the new advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine and additional supplies of Pfizer doses.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the vaccine rollout has been a “debacle”.

“Scott Morrison has had more than a year to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine but what we have is him giving up on the timetable, giving up on telling Australians what they want to know,” he told reporters in Hobart.

“Australians want to know when they’ll be vaccinated.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is now approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.

He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but going forward, with very strong support of the states, national cabinet will consider ways the states can assist with larger vaccination clinics.

From Wednesday, Victorians aged over 70 will be able to show up to a vaccine centre and get jabbed without an appointment as the state prepares to scale up its rollout.

“We’ve worked around the clock to find solutions to get vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and safely as possible,” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

But Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who is in the heat of an election campaign, is concerned about the delays and lack of communication from the federal government about the vaccine rollout for residents and staff at disability and aged care residential facilities.

“We are in a good place but we cannot afford to go backwards,” he said in a statement.

A woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The first two cases are still in hospital.

The nation’s chief nurse Alison McMillan recognises there could be hesitancy in being vaccinated, but encourages anyone with concerns to talk to their health professional, GP or nurse practitioner.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, who was until recently the minister for science and technology, did offer some hope for vaccine support in the future.

She says Australia has the capability to manufacture an mRNA type COVID-19 vaccine like Pfizer’s, but is currently not able to produce it at scale.

The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people under 50, a treatment which the government has secured a further 20 million doses, but they won’t arrive until late in the year.

Ms Andrews said it is “absolutely” possible Australia could manufacture an mRNA vaccine, and that work is already under way to try and make possible its production at scale.

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Settling Central Asia’s Borders Is No Easy Task – The Diplomat


Shortly after declaring that the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border issues were resolved “100 percent,” the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security Kamchybek Tashiev changed his tune, underscoring the deep difficulties in settling Central Asia’s remaining unsettled borders.

As Bruce Pannier covered for RFE/RL, while in southern Kyrgyzstan in late March, Tashiev visited the Kyrgyz village of Birlik, which borders the Uzbek exclave of Sokh. Speaking in the Uzgen district of Osh Province after the visit, he said, “Concerning this area, there was no final decision. To be candid, we did not reach an agreement on this section, including adjacent territory.”

As Pannier explained, Birlik had been the site of clashes in 2020 “that destroyed several homes and vehicles and left more than 200 people injured.”

Although earlier Tashiev proclaimed a bevvy of land-swaps with Uzbekistan to finally settle the delimitation of the border, in the province he admitted that “Of course, if the people are against [the land-swap agreements], it is possible that some will not be implemented.”

Tajikistan pre-emptively, isn’t interested in land-swaps either. In announcing the good news on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border business, Tashiev also mentioned that the Kyrgyz side had proposed a possible land-swap to settle the tension over the Vorukh exclave (Tajik territory surrounded by Kyrgyzstan).

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Visiting the area this week, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon assured residents of Vorukh that no land-swaps were being considered. 

“There have not been any talks about the possible exchange of Vorukh for another territory in the last 19 years, and there is no possibility for it,” he said, citing recent news reports as the reason for his statement. “Border demarcation is a long process and there is no place for emotions in the matter,” he said.

According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service report, Rahmon said agreements had been reached on almost half of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border over 100 rounds of negotiations since 2002. He claimed that the Tajik side had finished the work on its end outlined in a 2016 joint road map but that the Kyrgyz had failed to keep to the plan for “unknown reasons.”

It certainly seems that the Tajik government isn’t yet as keen as the Uzbek government on dealing with the border matter. And none of this approaches the difficulties that come after high-level agreements.

As I wrote last month:

As Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan move from agreeing on paper to where their border lies, or delimitation, they will have to take up the nastier matter of demarcation — or physically marking the border. That process may trigger tensions at the local level, especially when swapped territory comes into play.

The demarcation process is liable to be ugly. People on both sides of these possibly shifting borders have strong feelings about it. The governments involved also all struggle with the democratic bridge between the individual and the state while also, especially in Kyrgyzstan, being keenly aware that people’s sentiments cannot be entirely ignored. This in turn allows for the bilateral political matter of border demarcation to be weaponized for domestic purposes as needed.

For President Sadyr Japarov’s government a win is critical to stabilizing the country’s political situation. There is an small window of time for Japarov to prove there’s substance to back up his promises, that he can bring about both political and economic stability before he could go the way of nearly every other Kyrgyz president. For Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, settling the border helps feed his preferred reformist image, underpinned by his government’s emphasis and pursuit of greater regional cooperation. In Tajikistan, Rahmon has perhaps less incentive to see the border matter settled. The tenuous status quo hasn’t harmed his regime the way persistent border dramas have helped undercut Kyrgyz governments.

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Travellers on edge ahead of Easter after new COVID cases reported in QueenslandSupermarkets impose product limits amid Brisbane panic buyingGreater Brisbane enters snap lockdown amid growing clusterSA tightens border restrictions amid Brisbane outbreakStates slam borders shut as Queensland’s COVID-19 outbreak worsensWA introduces 'soft border' restrictions with QueenslandNew case of community transmission in Queensland Travellers on edge ahead of Easter after new COVID cases reported in QueenslandConcerns for footy fixture amid new COVID caseQueenslanders to isolate upon arrival in WAOne new coronavirus case in QueenslandConcern Australia vaccination rollout is falling behind other countriesAlerts after Queensland COVID-19 case linked to UK variantWorld-first trial of anti-cancer treatment



Travellers on edge ahead of Easter after new COVID cases reported in QueenslandSupermarkets impose product limits amid Brisbane panic buyingGreater Brisbane enters snap lockdown amid growing clusterSA tightens border restrictions amid Brisbane outbreakStates slam borders shut as Queensland’s COVID-19 outbreak worsensWA introduces 'soft border' restrictions with QueenslandNew case of community transmission in Queensland Travellers on edge ahead of Easter after new COVID cases reported in QueenslandConcerns for footy fixture amid new COVID caseQueenslanders to isolate upon arrival in WAOne new coronavirus case in QueenslandConcern Australia vaccination rollout is falling behind other countriesAlerts after Queensland COVID-19 case linked to UK variantWorld-first trial of anti-cancer treatment

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Closed borders and fear of the future: Australia’s population shrank during the pandemic | Greg Jericho | Business


If at the end of last year you felt there was a bit more room for you to stretch out your arms, you were right. For the first time since 1916, when thousands of young men were heading overseas to fight in the first world war, Australia’s population shrank.

The bureau of statistics estimates that in September last year there were 4,239 fewer residents in this country than there had been in June.


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That may not seem like an astounding drop, but normally our nation’s population increases by about 100,000 every three months.

Admittedly only New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory actually saw a fall in population, but all other states experienced a sharp slowing in the growth of residents.

The big reason was border closures. Net migration, which normally increases by about 60,000 every three months, fell by 34,804. The bulk of this was in Victoria where 18,438 more people left the state to go overseas than arrived from another country.

Australian residents were also not moving to Victoria – obviously because of border restrictions. In the six months from April to September last year, 7,691 more people moved out of the state to go somewhere else than moved to it. It was the first time since 2007 that for two quarters in a row more people left than arrived.

But over in South Australia for the first time since 1991 in two consecutive quarters more people moved to the state than left it.

It’s not just migration however, that is the cause of our falling population.

There were fewer births per head of our population in the September quarter last year than at any time on record.

There were just 30,565 births in July, August and September last year – equivalent to 119 per 100,000 people.

Our falling birthrate, however, has been a long-term trend.

You don’t generally plan to have children when the economy is not performing well, or when your standard of living is not increasing. As such it is not surprising that since the GFC, our birthrate has been steadily declining.

A decade ago there would be around 185 births per 100,000 people every three months – a level that would have seen an extra 15,000 or so babies born between July and September last year.

All of this affects the economy. Over the past decade, nearly two-thirds of growth in the economy comes from population increase. Remove that growth and our economy will necessarily be smaller than we otherwise would expect it to be.

There will be some cheering, suggesting that this will improve congestion and housing affordability, when in reality it will have little impact, and neither will it have a great impact on jobs.

For all the talk about migrants coming and taking our jobs, what we have seen over the past year is that overwhelmingly the fall in migration has been among those in their 20s.

The ABS estimates that the population of people aged 20-24 fell 3% last year, and those aged 25-29 went down 1.5%.

By contrast, the number of people aged over 65 rose 3.4%.

What happened? Foreign students left, and elderly Australians living overseas came home.

The first three months in 2020 saw a surge of people coming home, as they realised there were not much better places to sit out the pandemic than Australia.

And at the same time foreign residents – especially students – were leaving the country and those who would normally have been arriving to start study were not.

So if you go to a university you might definitely experience fewer people around; you will also experience lower funding for your courses as a result.

Once the vaccine rollout becomes widespread enough for travel to open, these migration numbers will return. But it will be interesting to see if the lockdown periods in the middle of last year do lead to an increase in birthrates, or if fears of the future will continue to see Australians more than ever before choosing not to increase the size of their families.

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COVID live blog: Business council says state borders closures should be lifted once vulnerable Australians are vaccinated


A state-by-state breakdown of mask rules

ACT:

While there is currently no community transmission of COVID-19 in the ACT and the use of face masks is not generally required, people should be prepared for situations where a mask may be required.

In the ACT, masks are recommended if you:

  • Have COVID-like symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, and need to leave your home for an essential reason (like getting tested or seeking medical help)
  • Are in quarantine or isolation and need to leave your home for medical attention.

However, face masks are mandatory for people aged 12 and over while inside the Canberra Airport terminal and during domestic commercial flights in and out of Canberra.

NSW:

In Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) face masks are mandatory on public transport including taxis and rideshare services.

Face masks must be worn indoors at all NSW airports and on domestic commercial flights into or out of NSW, including when the flight is landing at or taking off from the airport.

Children 12 years and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

The fine for not wearing a mask is $200

Northern Territory:

Chief Health Officer Directions make it mandatory for face masks to be worn at all major NT airports and while on board an aircraft. Masks must be worn when inside the airport and when on the airfield.

Children under the age of 12 and people with a specified medical condition are not required to wear a mask.

It is recommended that you take extra precautions and wear a mask in public if you:

  • have any symptoms and are seeking medical advice
  • are going to get tested.

Queensland:

Face masks remain mandatory in all Queensland airports and on domestic flights.

At this time, there is no sustained community transmission in Queensland.

There are some environments however, that present a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission whether there is community transmission or not. It is necessary to wear masks in these high-risk environments to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in Queensland.

Identified high risk environments include airports, domestic flights and vehicles transporting people to and from quarantine hotels.

South Australia:

Face masks (covering mouth and nose) are mandatory at all times while on an airplane or at any airport during your journey.

People present at an airport in South Australia must also wear a face mask.

At this time in South Australia it is not mandatory for the general community, but it is recommended to wear a mask when out in public if you are unable to physically distance.

Children under 12 years of age do not need to wear a mask, as they may not be able to handle it safely.

And some entertainment venues make have a mask requirement for guests.

Tasmania:

All persons aged 12 and older who are at a Tasmanian airport, or on an aircraft, must wear a face mask.

Anytime you intend to visit an airport you should carry a facemask with you and wear it as required (unless exempt).

If you are exempt from wearing a facemask, you will be required to show evidence from your doctor (i.e. medical certificate) upon request by an authorised person at the airport or on an aircraft.

Victoria:

You must always carry a face mask with you at all times when you leave the home, unless you have a lawful reason not to.

Face masks must be worn:

  • on public transport, in commercial passenger vehicles such as taxis and ride share vehicles, and in tour vehicles
  • by visitors to a hospital
  • by visitors at a care facility (while indoors)
  • indoors at shopping centres, retail facilities with 2,000 or more square metres of indoor space, markets and market stalls
  • on flights to and from Victoria and
  • at airports
  • if you are diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19, or a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as medical care or to get tested
  • while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as medical care (except as part of a surveillance or other asymptomatic testing program)
  • while experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

It is strongly recommended you wear a face mask when at a private gathering or when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people (such as outdoor markets, outdoor concerts, street markets, at a busy bus stop or train station platform).

Western Australia:

You must wear a face mask at an airport, travelling on an aircraft, or transporting a person subject to a quarantine direction (e.g. in a personal vehicle, private car, hired car, ride-share vehicle or taxi). If you are under a quarantine direction, you must wear a face mask when you present for a COVID-19 test.

If there is community transmission, you may be required to wear a face mask outside the home.

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Vaccine rollout inspires Gladys Berejiklian to push national borders


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has vowed to ramp up pressure on national cabinet to formulate a logical and uniform approach to domestic border closures now the COVID-10 vaccine rollout has begun.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison among the first Australians to receive the Pfizer jab on Sunday, Ms Berejiklian said there were no more excuses for rogue state premiers to slam borders shut at the first sign of an outbreak.

National cabinet is due to meet again this month.

“I’m going to continue, at national cabinet, to press the issue of internal borders within Australia now that the vaccine rollout has started and (because) we‘ve seen no community transmissions in NSW for a serious (37 consecutive) number of days,” she told reporters at Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast.

“Even when do have (a case) we have managed it well. We should not shut down borders just because there are a few cases we might be worried about. That is no way to run our nation, internally.”

Domestic borders have reopened following various closures during the past few weeks. South Australia had banned travellers from Victoria during the Holiday Inn outbreak.

Western Australia only allowed travellers from NSW back in the state on February 16 for the first time since the outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches in December.

Ms Berejiklian warned that if a national approach was not adopted, the economic effects would be crippling.

“I understand the international borders (being shut), but I don‘t understand the internal borders,” she said.

“We need to start thinking about the future because we run the risk of being left behind.

“We (Australians) have done incredibly well on the health side, but we also need to do well on keeping the economy going, keeping jobs going because the rest of the world is opening up.

“We do need to think about how we treat each other as states. ”

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Borders across Australia close in the face of the Victorian COVID-19 outbreak. This is where you can travel


Victoria has announced a snap lockdown to prevent a third wave of COVID-19 from breaking out.

It has prompted states and territories across Australia to impose new border restrictions. This is the situation as it stands.

I want to go to…

New South Wales

NSW requires anyone arriving in NSW from Victoria after midnight on Friday to remain in their home until Wednesday.

For NSW border residents who travel into regional Victoria, the five-day stay-at-home order only applies to those who have visited Greater Melbourne after midnight on Friday.

There are no restrictions for travellers from other states and territories.

Queensland

Queensland has declared greater Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot for 14 days.

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Queensland Government declares Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot.

People from the 36 local government areas in and around Melbourne aren’t allowed into Queensland from 1:00am on Saturday.

There are also 34 local government areas around Perth in Western Australia that are still considered hotspots by the Queensland Government.

However, the designation is due to end from Sunday.

Victoria

Victoria has declared areas of Western Australia’s south-west as an “orange zone”.

This means you must apply for a permit to enter Victoria, self-quarantine on arrival and remain in self-quarantine until you return a negative result.

Everywhere else in Australia is considered a “green zone”, which means you must apply for a permit to enter Victoria.

ACT

The ACT will introduce travel restrictions with Victoria from Saturday.

Any ACT residents who return home before midnight on Friday do not have to quarantine.

ACT residents who return home from tomorrow must notify ACT Health and enter into self-quarantine until Wednesday night in line with the Victorian lockdown.

All other states and territories can travel to the ACT, however you may have to declare your travel or quarantine in some cases.

Tasmania

Tasmania has declared the entire state of Victoria as a high-risk state. The decision will be reviewed if the Victorian lockdown lifts as planned.

All travellers from Victoria to Tasmania will have to self-isolate for 14 days, at their home or in hotel quarantine from Saturday.

There are also 12 high-risk locations in Sydney. Travellers who have spent time in these locations in the past two weeks are not permitted to enter Tasmania unless approved as an essential traveller.

The rest of Australia, including everywhere else in NSW, is considered “low-risk” and travellers don’t need to quarantine.

Western Australia

The WA has introduced a 72-hour hard border with Victoria 6:00pm on Friday.

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Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 52 seconds

WA Premier Mark McGowan announces 72-hour hard border with Victoria.

Victorian arrivals at Perth airport today will be tested at the airport before going into their 14 days of self-quarantine.

Only exempt travellers from Victoria will be allowed into the state.

WA is due to begin quarantine-free travel with New South Wales from Tuesday, provided there are no further outbreaks there.

This means all Australian jurisdictions, except Victoria, will be classified as “very-low-risk”. This means travellers won’t have to quarantine.

South Australia

From midnight on Friday, entry to South Australia from Victoria will be restricted.

Essential workers, such as truck drivers, will still be allowed.

Local travel from cross-border communities will be allowed for essential purposes such as shopping, medical treatment and caregiving.

Any South Australians in Victoria will be expected to conform to the lock-down restrictions in that state.

Travellers arriving from the Western Australian locations of Peel, Perth and South West must self-quarantine.

They must also submit to COVID-19 testing on days 1, 5 and 12 of quarantine. They can be released from quarantine after getting written advice of a negative COVD-19 test result.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Government has declared Greater Melbourne a coronavirus hotspot.

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Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 8 seconds

Northern Territory declares all of Greater Melbourne a coronavirus hotspot.

Any travellers from the city arriving in the Territory from 10:45am on Friday will be directed into 14 days mandatory supervised quarantine.

Authorities say anyone who arrived in the NT from Melbourne Airport from February 7 should isolate and get tested.

There are no other active declared hotspots in other Australian states and territories.

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