Australian government speeds up reopening of borders despite spike in COVID-19 cases

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday that Australia’s international border will reopen next month for states that have reached 80% vaccination rates for people over 16, even as COVID-19 infections of the country were reaching new heights.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison [Credit: AP/Kiyoshi Ota]

It could start in a few weeks for New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state, where the current Delta outbreak began in June after the state government refused to implement measures. lockdown measures even limited for 10 days.

Australians and fully vaccinated permanent residents arriving in NSW will be able to quarantine themselves at home for just a week, instead of quarantining themselves in a hotel for a fortnight, pending the supposed success of a brief home quarantine trial in the state.

Commercial flights from Australia will also resume for vaccinated Australians. These measures will effectively end 18 months during which restrictions on international travel limited the arrival of the virus, except for constant leaks from inadequate quarantine hotels.

Morrison’s announcement marks an acceleration by his Liberal-National coalition government of a “road map” agreed to by the bipartisan “National Cabinet” in July, which indicated that international travel would gradually reopen once 80% of people eligible will have been vaccinated at the national level and in the State concerned.

This acceleration was effectively accepted by yesterday’s meeting of the “National Cabinet” of leaders of federal, state and territorial governments, primarily the opposition Labor Party. They collectively “noted” the “progress” made on these fronts by Morrison’s Liberal-National government.

Morrison described the decision as a gain for ordinary people. “It’s time to bring Australians back to life,” he said. This is after denying entry to tens of thousands of Australian citizens and residents for a year and a half by refusing to provide decent and sufficient quarantine facilities.

In reality, the acceleration is being undertaken to meet the demands of the corporate elite for a full and faster reopening of the economy despite the surge in Delta infections.

An article in the Financial Time, the London voice of international finance capital, said this week: “Australia is making ‘big mistakes’ by not reopening to the world as business leaders accuse government of putting politics ahead of science before an election general imminent. “

“Growing tired of the COVID-19 lockdown policies and the failed vaccine rollout that would allow the economy to open up, executives at several of Australia’s biggest companies, including BHP, Macquarie and Qantas , said the nation will have to learn to “live with the virus”, as many other countries have done. “

It is a demand that Australian governments must crack down on widespread opposition from the working class to being forced to return to unsafe workplaces and schools, under conditions that hospitals are already unable to cope with. . Scientists and health experts warn of an increase in infections in the coming weeks as schools and workplaces reopen.

“It’s time for Australian companies to turn their worry and their growls into a roar,” said Greg O’Neill, managing director of Melbourne-based fund asset management firm La Trobe Financial. Financial Time. “Now is the time for courage and honesty. No politics. “

“Living with the virus” means that infections must be able to spread in Australia, as it does around the world, infecting thousands more, killing hundreds and inflicting the as yet completely unknown effects of the “long COVID” on many more.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 108,000 confirmed cases in Australia and more than 1,300 people have died. Those numbers are already growing rapidly – more than 2,350 cases and 12 deaths have been reported today – as limited existing restrictions are lifted.

So far, the toll remains far lower than in other countries, such as the UK, where 59,000 children have been infected with COVID-19 in the first two weeks of schools reopening and new cases have passed. from 2,000 a day in May to nearly 35,000 a day in the past month. In the United States, more than 200,000 new pediatric infections have been reported each week for the past five weeks, mostly as a result of schools reopening.

September 29 Financial Time The article featured a statement from Graham Turner, managing director of travel company Flight Center. “The borders should never have been closed,” he told the newspaper. “We are making some really big mistakes here.” With Qantas, the national airline, the profits of Flight Center would be more directly boosted by the opening of borders.

Turner accused Morrison of being “afraid to take a wrong step.” Decisions were made for “political reasons” and it was “the most frustrating thing for business.” Turner said he spent five weeks working in London in July and August and “they still have a lot of infections but they are back to normal.”

Yesterday, Turner threatened to take legal action against the closing of internal borders if state governments did not adopt “reasonable” plans to remove them in a few weeks, accusing them of costing $ 100 million a month to his company.

Border closures so far have limited COVID-19 cases to low numbers in most states and territories – Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – allowing their governments to present themselves as protecting their populations.

The Financial Time seized and inflated article, a month-old “open letter” to Australian governments, dated September 1, by the Business Council of Australia (BCA), representing the largest conglomerates operating in Australia. Signed by 79 companies, including the big banks, Uber, Credit Suisse, Bain, Boeing, Bupa and Shell, the letter said it was “necessary to open up society and live with the virus.”

Governments had to “stay the course” by imposing a plan to end restrictions once vaccination rates reached 70% and 80%. However, the open letter did not use the phrase “big mistakes”, as the article suggested. This came from Turner, reflecting increased corporate pressure on federal and state governments.

Strongly, the Financial Time The article said “political pressure” was mounting on Morrison, “whose Conservative coalition government has a shabby majority, lags behind in the polls and is embroiled in multiple scandals.”

Two days later, on October 1, BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott issued a new statement hailing the ‘rollback’ of Morrison government restrictions as ‘critical’ and citing an ‘analysis’ by global consulting giant EY estimating the cost of international border closures. to about $ 7.6 billion per month.

“This will help send the message to the world that Australia is open to new jobs and investment,” Westacott said. She also insisted that the next step was to end all state and territory restrictions, including border closures. “Now state and territory leaders must release and stick to their national reopening plans,” Westacott said. At stake was “our international reputation as a good place to do business”.

Like the interventions of the BCA and the Financial Time demonstrate, the ruling capitalist class intends to drive up profits, whatever the cost in terms of health and life of the working class.


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