COVID-19 and Australia’s overseas travel ban

My 2 July 2021 flight from Melbourne (MEL) to Vladivostok (VVO) via Tokyo (NRT)… Not anymore.

Since 20 March 2020, Australia has had an overseas travel ban in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been disruptive and unfortunate for many, and it still continues to be very disruptive and very unfortunate for many, many more.

Including myself! Who (as of just now) cancelled what was going to be an epic 80-day, east-to-west trip from Vladivostok, Russia to Dublin, Ireland — through China, and Mongolia, to Ukraine; and through eastern to central to western Europe; crossing the finish line in Dublin, Ireland; with a pint o’ Guinness in hand to celebrate another epic trip; one to perhaps rival that of the 3-months I was in South America in 2016 (Amazon, Ayahuasca, etc)…

After nine months of planning, hoping, fantasising, finger-crossing, and wishing — essentially turning a blind eye to the current situation, the current reality of things as they are — I finally got around to acknowledging that it is okay for me to relax my tightly-crossed fingers and let my 2021 travel desires evaporate into thin (hopefully COVID-free) air. Deep down it really sucks, but a whole lot of self-induced pressure has also faded away.

(And, yes, I did actually book a flight to Russia in June 2020, knowing full well COVID-19 was a thing. And the flight was originally for 28 May 2021. What can I say? I’m a gambling man!)

I was not the only one sitting, wishing, and waiting! Even Qantas had their sheer of optimism back in January 2021 when they — Qantas — starting selling tickets for international flights from July 2021. As of now, Qantas are looking (hoping!) to resume international flights around October 2021. Though, with recent problems, and delays with vaccines in Australia, perhaps that — too — will be pushed back.

Australia’s COVID-19 reaction

Australia’s own COVID-19 reaction since March 2020 has been fascinating to witness. The COVID-19 pandemic is an all encompassing novel situation; one that was (and still is) being dealt with in real time. There were a number of mistakes from authorities in the early days of the pandemic, such as NSW Health allowing sick passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark on 19 March 2020, without proper measures or precautions.

As of now, there are still some oversights that continue to play out. An immediate example of such an oversight is the rate Australians are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the proposed targets was to have 4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March 2021.

“The Government is aiming for a target of 80,000 doses per week to start, ramping up to 4 million doses by the end of March.”

This projection would have assumed a steady supply of vaccines available from the vaccine producers. This has not been the case, however. Recently, 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines coming from Italy/the EU were halted. Italy do need them more than Australia. Fair enough.

As of 24 March 2021, only about 325,000 doses have been given to Australians. That’s 8.13% of the 4,000,000 target for March 2021. A slow start.

As of 24 March 2021, a little over 325,000 Australians have had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. Source: Our World in Data

The Australian Open

I am amazed the Australian Open went ahead in 2021. Sure! It’s great money for the city of Melbourne, the state of Victoria, and for the professional sportsmen and sportswomen involved, and their sponsors… but, like, wow! I’m all for tennis, and grand slams (Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, and all that); but — when you have Australian citizens overseas wanting to get back to Australia BUT CANNOT, and Australian citizens (like me!) who are locked-in or locked-down and longing to travel overseas BUT CANNOT… and yet, a bunch of professional tennis players are allowed into Australia... Smashing!

The same goes for the Hollywood elite travelling everywhere making movies. Some are even being made in Australia! There are two absolutely essential services: tennis playing; movie making. They are up there with toilet-paper-factory-running! It must be said: If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed to the world, it is the double standards between the elite and the plebs. I’d say, before all this went down, the double standards were known of, though remained generally covert (sort of). But now such double standards are pungently overt and in your face: “We can do it, but You cannot!”… Ace!

Australia open? For Australian citizens? (Not quite). For grand slam tennis players? Absolutely!

Signs and indicators of overseas travel (as an Australian)

As I continued to hold out hope for myself being able to fly to Vladivostok, Russia, on 2 July 2021 (from Melbourne via Tokyo), I thought out a list of things that would need to happen in order for my overseas flight to become more probable.

The list included:

COVID-19 VACCINE PROGRESS

  • The COVID-19 vaccine to be developed
  • The COVID-19 vaccine to be a proven success worldwide
  • The COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available around the world
  • The COVID-19 vaccine available in Australia by early 2021

BIG EVENTS GOING AHEAD (WITH CROWDS)

  • The Tokyo Olympics NOT being cancelled (this is a big indicator)
  • The UEFA Euro 2021 to go ahead with crowd participation
  • Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam to go ahead with crowd participation.

OPENING OF BORDERS AND POLITICAL STABILITY

  • International airline carriers to recommence flights
  • Russia, China, Mongolia all opening their borders to travellers
  • Australia’s internal borders to all be open (to get to Melbourne airport!)
  • Australia’s overseas travel ban being fully lifted on 17 June 2021
  • Europe NOT having subsequent 3rd, 4th, 5th waves of COVID-19, etc
  • US President Joe Biden not falling up the stairs
  • Political tensions between superpower countries NOT leading to another world war
  • And many MANY more…

That was seriously a whole lot of finger-crossing!

Having uncrossed and relaxed my fingers… let’s just wait and see.

(I was actually going to cancel the flight last week, but I ended up just updating my seating preferences for the flight(s) instead.)

Some News Articles:

“ACT’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is set to start on February 22.
Here’s what the timeline means for you”
By Niki Burnside on 15 February 2021
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-15/act-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-when-can-get-vaccinated-canberra/13156036

“Coronavirus: ‘Serious mistakes’ made over Ruby Princess outbreak”
By BBC News on 17 August 2020
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-53776285

“Qantas resumes international bookings for July 2021"
By Lauren McMah on 5 January 2021
https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/flights/qantas-resumes-international-bookings-for-july-2021/news-story/56e09ef09e3d197c114df38a2799678c

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Reality is nonlinear.

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