CANBERRA, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The head of Australia's Department of Health has revealed that it is unlikely that the country's borders will be cast open in 2021.
Brendan Murphy, who headed Australia's initial response to COVID-19 as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) before becoming the Secretary of the Department of Health, said on Monday that full-scale travel to and from Australia would likely not resume until 2022.
"I think the answer is probably no," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television channel on Monday when asked if borders would "realistically" be reopened in 2021.
"I think we'll go most of this year with substantial border restrictions."
"Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus and it's likely that quarantine will continue for some time."
As of Sunday afternoon, there had been 28,708 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and the numbers of locally and overseas acquired cases in the last 24 hours were six and 13 respectively, according to the latest figures updated on Sunday evening from the Department of Health.
Australia's borders were closed to non-citizens and non-residents from March 20, 2020, and Australians were banned from leaving the country for non-essential reasons from March 25.
Murphy said on Monday that the unpredictable nature of the pandemic made it impossible to predict when Australians would be allowed to travel overseas en masse.
"I don't want to predict more than two or three months ahead, the world is changing," he said.
"At the moment we've got this light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccines, so we're going to go as safely and as fast as we can to get the population vaccinated and then we'll look at what happens." Enditem