Vaccinated Australians could receive easier passage to and from the country in a plan aimed at incentivising immunisation, the health minister says.
A record 402,000 COVID-19 vaccines were administered across the nation last week, as the government faced pressure to reveal when the international border closure will end.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the prospect of reopening should compel Australians to get immunised, but warned the border would open incrementally over time.
“It should certainly be an incentive to get vaccination,” he told reporters on Monday.
“What we are also looking at with regards to the opening of borders is that progressive capacity, based on medical advice for those that have been vaccinated to have easier passage out and easier passage in,” he said.
In April, Mr Hunt said even a 100 per cent vaccination rate was “no guarantee” of the border reopening.
“(It) is based on a series of factors … If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders,” he said.
Vaccines were highly effective at reducing serious symptoms caused by COVID-19, Mr Hunt said, but key to the reopening decision would be their effectiveness at stopping transmission of the virus.
Mr Hunt also confirmed the government would respond “in full” to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, which delivered 148 recommendations in a final report in March.
The health minister would not “pre-empt” the announcement, but said it would prove to be a “line in the sand” for the sector.
“It will be a record investment in aged care and will also be a record response to any royal commission in Australian history,” he said.
“Not only is it about investment, but it is about the deep and profound respect for older Australians.
“If we can produce not only the support but also respect and care and dignity, then I think we will have achieved something.”
The government in 2019 received a damning interim report from the Royal Commission titled ‘Neglect’, outlining the “cruel and harmful” system awaiting Australians in their old age.
When the final report was handed down, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government’s response would be detailed in the budget.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Monday accused the Coalition of “sitting around” in the interim, saying it “waits around until there’s a crisis” before responding.
“This government has sat on eight years of neglect,” Mr Albanese said.
“This government also cut funding for aged care, directly by Scott Morrison, and hasn’t put that money back in spite of the interim report of the Royal Commission. So this is a real test.”