Scott Morrison has admitted he has no plan for how Australians will be able to travel overseas if scientists fail to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
The prime minister was grilled by A Current Affair’s Tracy Grimshaw on Thursday about his ‘plan’ to reopen the nation’s borders.
‘Right now, the opportunity for large scale travel beyond our borders is not foreseeable,’ he said.
Ms Grimshaw asked if Australians would ever be allowed to holiday overseas again or visit family abroad without a vaccine.
The prime minister was unable to answer Ms Grimshaw’s questions but encouraged Australians to look for ‘opportunities’ instead of simply waiting for the jab.
‘Australians can focus on that, ”what if there’s never a vaccine?” and that means your head is to the floor,’ he said.
‘And when your head is to the floor, you can’t see what your opportunities are ahead.
‘That’s where I need Australians heads, I need them looking up.
‘I need them looking forward, because when they’re doing that, they’re going to be encouraging each other, they’re going to be opening their businesses, they’re going to be doing whatever it takes to keeping people in jobs.’
Mr Morrison said Australia will ‘crack this’ whether there is a vaccine or not.
‘We will deal with whatever circumstance that confronts us because that’s what Australians do,’ he said.
Mr Morrison is hopeful Australia and New Zealand will be able to agree on a travel zone between the two nations before the end of the year.
He continues to chat regularly to New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and said there had been interest from other Pacific nations and Japan about ‘safe travel’.
As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Morrison encouraged Australians to continue to follow the health advice.
‘You keep washing your hands, you keep your 1.5 distance, you keep your health system’s capacity strong, you, you keep ensuring people book and sit at tables,’ he said.
‘That’s what you do [without a vaccine]. You run your country, you run your society, in a COVID-safe way.’
Australia and New Zealand have for months been plotting easing border restrictions for travel across the ditch, but the plans were dealt a blow after Victoria was overwhelmed by a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Late last month, Ms Ardern said the reopening of borders would come down to Australia’s leaders.
‘Ultimately it’s up to Australia to decide whether or not they’ll go for a whole of country approach, or a state-by-state approach,’ she said at the time.
‘Obviously where there is community outbreak that is a no-go for New Zealand.
‘Where they have border controls in place and where they’ve had no community transmissions for sustained periods of time that may be a different scenario.’
Victoria recorded 403 fresh COVID-19 infections on Thursday – the state’s third highest tally since the pandemic begun – and five additional deaths.
NSW recorded 19 new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, including three in hotel quarantine, with almost 25,000 COVID-19 tests conducted.
A cluster associated with the Crossroads Hotel in Casula has grown to 56 after three new cases were reported on Thursday.
The government has also halved international flight arrivals into Australia to ease pressure on the hotel quarantine program.
Australia first barred entry for foreign nationals travelling from mainland China on February 1 in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The incoming travel ban was gradually extended to several countries that became virus hotspots before borders were shut to all non-residents from March 21.
Overseas arrivals dropped slumped 60 per cent in March, and have nearly collapsed since.
Australia’s tourism industry is likely to cop continued economic damage from the coronavirus lockdown, with international travel bans expected to remain until July 2021.