(Australian Associated Press)
A leading business group is calling for all fully vaccinated people to be let back in to Australia, warning the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic could be at risk.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has urged the federal government to let skilled workers, international students and tourists enter without needing to quarantine.
While the country’s international borders reopened on Monday, quarantine-free travel is currently restricted to citizens, permanent residents and their families.
The government has indicated other groups will be able to travel to Australia without the need for quarantine at a later point this year.
The chamber’s chief executive Andrew McKellar said the government needed to outline a concrete timetable as to when free travel for all fully vaccinated people could take place.
“While the rest of the world is moving on from closed borders, we’re at risk of getting left behind,” Mr McKellar said.
“We must move beyond quarantine for international arrivals and travel bubble arrangements, opening up to most fully vaccinated travellers.”
Tourism operators are hoping for a return for all international travel, after the sector was hit hard by the pandemic.
The latest annual report by Tourism Australia revealed the overnight spend of all tourists was down 50 per cent in 2020/21.
The amount spent by domestic tourists was down by almost one-quarter to $61.5 billion in the past financial year.
While tourist hot spots have been relying on domestic travel, which has been impacted by COVID border restrictions, it’s hoped the reopening of international borders could aid the recovery.
Quarantine-free travel arrangements have been put in place between Australia and New Zealand, as well as Singapore.
However, Mr McKellar said those arrangements could not replace the economic losses being experienced.
“Without opening up, we run the risk that international students, skilled migrants, working holiday makers and foreign tourists will head elsewhere,” he added.
“Not many are going to return to Australia if they have to undertake two weeks of quarantine.”