Britain could regret introducing Australian-style quarantine hotels which have bankrupted the tourism industry, seen the virus spreading inside the accommodation and sparked a tennis Open shambles.
New analysis today projected that the country’s tourism industry lost £5 billion from the lucrative summer period, December 24 to January 31.
Thousands from across the world usually flock to Australia’s beaches to enjoy sunny
Only citizens, residents or immediate family members can enter the country and they must stay at a hotel for 14 days on arrival and undergo covid tests.
It means that many of the Australians who would usually return home to see family over Christmas haven’t bothered because much of the trip would be in quarantine.
A tennis player waits inside his hotel in Melbourne as the Australian Open has been hit by country’s tough coronavirus restrictions
Novak Djokovic waves from the balcony of his Melbourne hotel on Friday where players are undergoing mandatory quarantine
In addition, you can’t leave the country unless you receive an exemption, such as business travel or on compassionate grounds.
These economically crippling rules, coupled with strict interstate travel rules, mean that the tourism sector is set to lose 320,000 jobs, Australia’s Tourism and Transport Forum said today.
Tennis players wait to leave the hotel for a training session in Melbourne on Tuesday during their two weeks of mandatory quarantine
Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, has parked its entire long-haul fleet until at least July. It’s share price is down by a quarter on pre-pandemic levels.
Almost 11 percent of Australia’s GDP is made up by tourism, which is similar to the UK where the sector accounts for 9 percent.
Then there’s the quarantine hotels themselves.
The stars of the Australian Open tennis tournament last week learned the misery of being boxed into a room while the sun blazes outside.
Some of the athletes have lost out on their normal warm-up sessions and the event has turned into a sporting embarrassment, with the competition deemed unfair as higher-ranking players have been able to enjoy more luxurious preparation than their counterparts.
Earlier this year, several whistle-blower security guards at the hotels – which are locked down like prisons – described how the virus was actually rampant in the accommodation, with officers being urged not to get tested and others having sex with the guests.
Australia won early praise for locking down the country with draconian measures.
They were able to eliminate the virus – at least it seemed – until it was revealed in July that an explosion of cases in New South Wales was down to the disease spreading in the quarantine hotels meant to contain it.
The local government employed expensive private security firms to keep a watchful eye on the arrivals, only for reports to emerge of sex with guests, shaking hands and sharing cigarettes.
Similar allegations were made in Melbourne, Victoria, with whistle-blowers claiming that profits were put ahead of public safety: a lack of training and appropriate PPE and being urged not take a test because they were needed at work.
While proponents of an Australian ‘zero covid’ approach will point to crowds at sports matches and concerts as evidence for their success, for Britain to achieve anything close to their infection rate would be prohibitively expensive.
Elimination of the virus is elusive, Germany was held up as a European success story at first but it has been ravaged by the second wave.
South Korea was also able to achieve a strong hold over the disease for months before it re-surged.
Grounded British Airways planes sit on the tarmac at Heathrow airport Terminal 5
Australia has not yet authorised a coronavirus vaccine and doesn’t plan to offer a jab until March.
Qantas CEO Alan Joycehas said that a jab is going to be necessary to enable quarantine-free travel between countries.
While the world holds out hope for vaccines, epidemiologists have argued throughout the pandemic that a certain level of ‘herd immunity’ is beneficial.
Coronavirus won’t just evaporate one day and countries like Australia which have cut themselves off from the rest of the world will have to face the virus at some point.
Whether a vaccine is able to save them from that reckoning day remains to be seen.
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