Cruise lines are pressing the government for fresh talks on the path froward for sailings after Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined his four-phase plan to bring back travel.
The National Cabinet’s vaccination thresholds are clear: 70 per cent fully vaccinated to prevent more lockdowns; 80 per cent will allow us to tackle travel bubbles and fly to places like Europe and America.
When? Well, if we can step up the vaccination rate, we could get to 70 per cent by November. More likely, according to the pundits, is December.
That last hurdle to 80 per cent shouldn’t be long in coming: some say January, others February, but March should see us hit the target.
With many states in lockdown as you read this, it seems a long way away. Vaccine certificates are set to be rolled out in coming months under a plan submitted to the government’s expenditure review committee last week.
The vaccine certificates are a key part of the government’s negotiations with other countries on the establishment of travel bubbles, according to The Age newspaper.
Of course, the Government has displayed a degree of “vaccine hesitancy” in terms of predictions. All Mr Morrison would say was Australia will reopen to the world once 80 per cent of the “eligible population” are double-dose vaccinated.
But he did say he believed the 70 per cent threshold would be reached by Christmas. Others suggest November as a real possibility if we can only persuade the population that AstraZeneca is OK.
What needs to happen now is for the government to start talking to the cruise industry about how to resume sailings in what is the only major nation without a plan for the return of cruise.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said: “The news that Australia now has specific vaccination targets in place is very positive – it means we now have a better idea of what needs to be achieved before Australia can move into the next stages of reopening.
“Obviously there’s still a way to go and timeframes aren’t fixed, but if vaccination rates rise substantially the Australian travel and tourism sector has a chance to move forward.
“How this affects cruising will depend on governments agreeing to a detailed framework for cruising’s resumption. We have long been advocating for a careful and phased resumption of cruising that begins with domestic operations.
“Now that Australian governments are working to a wider four-phase national plan for reopening, we’re calling for cruising to be included in this process.
“We have already had some initial discussions about this and are seeking further engagement with governments and health authorities to make it happen. The extensive new testing and health protocols that cruise lines have adopted globally are already in place and working successfully in other countries overseas.
“We now need the opportunity to implement these measures in Australia, and we’re calling for this to be incorporated into the national four-phase plan.”
So where are we? We are in Phase A, and no-one wants to say here. For the cruise industry, it’s a painful limbo that is killing one of our most important economic lifelines.
The second phase, known as phase B, will be reached when seven in ten of the eligible population have vaccinated – and that means each state and territory also achieving the same average individually.
That’s a bit of a problem. While the Eastern states are now swimming towards their targets like our gold-winning Olympic swim team, WA is recalcitrant.
But this level will minimise serious illness and hospitalisation. It’s when you “vaccine passport” will be a handy weapon to help you face fewer restrictions.
What we are all waiting for is phase C, when eight in ten of us are vaccinated.
There will only be ‘‘ highly targeted lockdowns’’ not State closures. So booking a holiday at home won’t be the lottery it is today.
‘‘We will lift all restrictions on out-bound travel for vaccinated Australians and we’ll extend the travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries,’’ the PM promised.
That offers the hope of cruising to Asia and Europe.
There are only two countries at 70 per cent. The UK and Israel. But if the UK can do it, so can we.