‘Don’t put money on’ borders being open by Christmas

If you’re a betting person, don’t rely on the fact you might see your interstate family for Christmas.

Experts warn Australia could be stuck with border restrictions – despite the Prime Minister’s hopes to have them reopen – after South Australia’s new coronavirus cluster threw a spanner in the works.

States were swift and strict in their response to Adelaide’s outbreak of 17 cases, with the state now closed to Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

Now people’s Christmas plans have once again been thrown in limbo, with fears we won’t succeed in Scott Morrison’s plan to have all states open bar WA.

Dr David Beirman, Senior Lecturer of Tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney, said as more stranded Aussies returned home, the greater the likelihood was of a few of them bringing COVID-19 with them, generating more outbreaks of a similar nature.

“Based on the recent outbreak, the Prime Minister’s hope for open borders within Australia by Christmas is a worthy aspiration but punters would not be well advised to not put money on it,” he said.

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People are seen waiting for flights at Adelaide Airport after new border restrictions came into place. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David MariuzSource:News Corp Australia

Bruce Prideaux, Professor of Tourism at CQUniversity, Queensland, said the ability to successfully contain the Adelaide cluster in the next few days would determine what would happen next.

“The Crossroads (hotel) incident in NSW illustrates how long it can take to successfully contain just one introduction of the virus,” he said.

“State governments are reacting almost immediately to the spike indicating that this is likely to be the pattern of response until the nation is effectively protected by vaccines.

“It also possibly means that returning nationals will face even more stringent quarantine measures.”

Professor Prideaux warned the actions by the states indicated that domestic visitors might be subject to swift and unexpected quarantine measures, and interstate travellers in particular would need to factor that into their travel plans.

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People rushed to fly interstate before states force quarantine restrictions after the South Australian outbreak. Picture: Neil BennettSource:Supplied

WA Premier Mark McGowan was harsh in his border closure, with travellers from Adelaide to Perth on Sunday night breaking down in tears as they were told mid-flight they would not be allowed to enter the state and would need to pay for quarantine or turn around.

Dr Beirman said the apparent expectation that those passengers had to bear the quarantine costs was “grossly unfair”.

“I think that the WA government should pay the quarantine costs for those South Australian passengers,” he said.

“They left Adelaide with one set of rules in place and arrived in Perth to a changed set of rules. It was hardly their fault and the WA government’s. I think that the WA government would gain a great deal of respect by demonstrating some humanity towards these people while maintaining all the requirements they have established.”

Dr Beirman said the move was “true to form” for Mr McGowan’s government.

“Based on WA’s approach to the pandemic this year, the call for a quarantine period for visiting South Australians is entirely consistent with the WA government’s hard border approach,” he said.

“From the WA government’s perspective they had to act quickly in relation to the SA outbreak.”

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People line up at a COVID testing facility at Parafield Gardens in Adelaide. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David MariuzSource:News Corp Australia

SA Premier Steven Marshall on Monday afternoon said the state was facing its “biggest test to date” and the border arrangements for other jurisdictions were their decisions to make.

“We can and we must rise to this new challenge,” he said.

“I want to assure all South Australians that we are working around the clock to stay ahead of this cluster. No effort will be spared to slow and stop the spread of the Parafield cluster.”

Professor Prideaux said the lesson for SA was that just one case could lead to rapid transmission throughout the community.

“It also highlights the need for gold standard contact racing,” he said.

He said borders closing in response was “an interesting but not unexpected development”.

“Firstly, the developing SA cluster illustrates the difficulty all authorities and individuals face in controlling the virus,” he said.

“It is very contagious and requires the uttermost vigilance of the authorities charged with handling live virus cases such as hospitals and quarantine hotels.

“It also demonstrates the need to continue emphasising the ongoing need for the public to continue practising social distancing, handwashing etc and for venues to ensure that customers register their details every time they visit a pub, cafe, restaurant, church etc.”

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West Australian cricket player Joel Paris has his temperature checked after arriving from Adelaide at Perth Airport on Saturday. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Dr Beirman said COVID-19 remained fluid and subject to changes at zero notice.

“Until a vaccine is in place globally, COVID-19 cases can and do pop up everywhere,” he said.

“To put things in perspective, as of November 15, Australia ranks 93rd in the world with COVID-19 cases 27,728 and 907 deaths.

“By comparison the USA has recorded over 11.3 million cases and 251,000 deaths. Globally here have been 54,769,000 cases and 1,323,522 deaths and the global daily increase is well over 250,000 cases per day.

“Based on that, Australia has done incredibly well in containing this global pandemic but we clearly can’t let our guard down.”

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