Australia’s external borders are unlikely to reopen before 2021 according to the nation’s Tourism Minister, diminishing the prospects of international events and appearances from international drivers in coming months.
Entry to Australia is currently restricted to citizens and residents, with limited exceptions, and all arrivals must serve a 14-day quarantine period.
Such restrictions have already accounted for this year’s Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and leave doubt over Alexandre Premat’s participation in the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
It also heightens the chance that the Bathurst 12 Hour will not go ahead next year although so far only a Supercars component, which could be yet dropped from the 2020/21 season, has been added.
Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham left open the possibility of a travel ‘bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand in comments to the National Press Club today.
However, when asked if the external border would reopen next year rather than this year, he said, “Honestly, I think that is more likely the case.”
Exceptions could be made for business travellers, although whether that would include professional motor racing drivers and crew members is not known, and a quarantine requirement would likely still apply anyway.
The Bathurst 12 Hour typically falls a week after the 24 Hours of Daytona, which would preclude drivers from starting in both, as the likes of Chaz Mostert did this year.
“Those who might not only be international students but be here for longer term work purposes or longer term business and investment purposes, logically you can extend those sort of same safeguards to them and their state,” Senator Birmingham told the National Press Club.
“In terms of other countries and how we look at shorter-term visitation, that becomes much more challenging once you move beyond New Zealand but not impossible.
“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working through that with those countries, find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies.
“But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”
The ban on overseas travel by Australian citizens and residents was also recently extended to September 17, although exemptions may be applied for.
South Australia became the first of five states/territories which closed internal borders to start reopening at midnight this morning (local time/ACST), although so far only to Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania.