Sydney : Australia's borders for international travel are likely to remain closed till late 2021, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg flagged the distant date in his post-budget address to the National Press Club in Canberra in early October.
"International travel, including by tourists and international students, is assumed to remain largely closed off until late next year and then gradually return over time, and a vaccine to be available around the end of 2021 is one of the assumptions in the budget," Frydenberg said.
"We have taken every step possible to give Australia the best possible chance of getting a vaccine," he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already pledged that all Australians will be offered free COVID-19 vaccine shots under a USD 1.7 billion programme, although his forecast was for the vaccine to be available from early 2021.
An estimated 3.8 million doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, which remains in late-stage testing, would be available in the first two months of 2021 for vulnerable Australians and front-line healthcare workers.
Frydenberg's more pessimistic, although perhaps also more realistic, projection would make exceptions for 'travel bubbles' formed through bilateral agreements with countries - especially self-contained nations - such as New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan, as each brings the pandemic under control.
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