80% Booster shots, Covid passports… Let’s go!

Whilst ‘Scomo’ curiously said it wasn’t ‘a race’, we sure as hell are picking up speed! Vaccination hesitancy appears to be significantly waning, more people are focused on what we can do to get through this Covid mess and less on misguided, social media half-truths. But having said that, indeed, this letter of mine – however, balanced it is or not, would also come under the social media banner! So, anything I write here is my considered opinion and gleaned from what I have studied, interpreted from what I see and hear around me, plus feedback from my friends and work colleagues across Europe. Therefore, what follows is my two pennyworths….
 

80% - The Government Road Map

We won’t be travelling outside Australia (or New Zealand) until we have 80% of the adult population fully vaccinated as a nation. The pace of vaccination has now reached much healthier levels (forgive the pun), and we may well achieve this target sometime in December. Fantastic. Happy Christmas, everyone.

But as we near that ‘freedom’ date, other new conditions and levels of advice will no doubt take centre stage. We know the individual Australian states have at times been headbutting the Federal Government. So, just because the Road Map says Australia will open, will WA, QLD, or any other states set different, more draconian rules? What might they insist on? Will we have to hotel quarantine on the way back? Or self-isolate whilst a test result comes back. Or take two tests? Over three days? 5 days? Which airline did you fly on, and which international airport did you transit? What countries did you visit? Did any of those countries have a sudden outbreak?


Right now, don’t let these issues overwhelm you

In Europe, they are so much further down the travel track, and they are now in the grips of dealing with all the above. They have a green, amber, and red ‘traffic light’ travel system. And their problem is that each country has its own opinion and traffic light code on each other. They also use different systems for reading data and tracking. For instance, a work colleague of mine went to Italy for business, and because the Italian QR scanners somehow could not read his vaccinations, he could not dine out in restaurants. Imagine that, going to Italy and having to eat ‘takeaway’! (Paul and Sally quickly got validated vaccine printouts and you should see the food they then had the next night!)  As such, many people I know over there are simply not bothering to travel until they simplify it all. And when they do, we will be well-positioned to learn from their mistakes and successes.

So, rest assured, in time, all will become clear, and these hurdles will be jumped.

 

Coming back home? To test or not to test?

Over in Europe, they have a speedy ‘Lateral Flow Test’ (LFT) in use. These testing packs may be used at borders, and you can also buy them and test at home.  Taking about 15 minutes instead of 24 – 48 hours, they are very widely used. But they are not as accurate. 

Quoting from the Vaccine alliance Gavi “A recent Cochrane Review, which combined the results of multiple studies assessing the accuracy of LFTs, found that the average sensitivity of such tests was 72% among people with COVID-19 symptoms, and 58% for people without symptoms. This would mean that for every 100 people infected with COVID-19 who had symptoms, only 72 of them would test positive on a LFT.”

So, knowing the accuracy is a bit haphazard, do you think that both Australian and New Zealand governments will allow you to easily re-enter Australia without a significant block of enforced isolation or hotel quarantine, just relying on the results of these ‘quick tests’?

I think not. Well, maybe not, at least in the first six months of open borders.

So, unless these tests get more accurate, and if testing is required as a condition of entry, you will have to get the ‘real tests’ within a 24–48 hour turnaround. That would mean at least a minimum isolation time.

And to me, unless you are going overseas visiting loved ones or travelling for essential reasons, you would not countenance an international holiday knowing you would then return to 2 weeks of expensive hotel quarantine. But how long an isolation would be acceptable on your return? 

In my opinion, regardless of whether the government opens the borders for international holiday travel, you also will have certain decisions to make for yourselves.
 

So here is my ‘two pennyworths’ on how everything will unfold:

  1. Sometime, probably around Christmas, we will achieve 80% of the adult population being fully vaccinated. Once we hit 70%, public pressure will build for a clear indication of when they may likely firmly announce the open border date. In February, I would assume a firm announcement for the borders to be opening at the beginning of the 2nd quarter - April 1st (Fools Day?)
     
  2. Not all destinations will open straight away—only destinations with very high vaccination levels. Therefore, the good news is, Europe should be one of the first general destinations to open for us.
     
  3. Returning travellers (you) will not get back into Australia or New Zealand unless you have had the essential two vaccine shots within a mandated time frame of travel. (Immunization wears off after a time)
     
  4. Regardless of our government(s) requirements for a second jab, overseas attractions, sites, and even countries will demand evidence of at least a second jab.
     
  5. BUT… I believe our governments will also push for everyone to have the third booster shot. Evidence to date is a booster shot, particularly of another vaccine style and brand, hugely enhances your immunity and, if you somehow still get infected, dramatically reduces the amount of virus you shed.   

Australia has shed loads of Pfizer coming in throughout 2022. Maybe for that reason? It will certainly be readily available.

My opinion - If you are travelling overseas – regardless of any government requirement, you would be daft if you did make sure you got that booster jab!

  1. Some European countries may require you to have had a Covid test within one week or so before arrival in Europe.
     
  2. Australia and New Zealand will most likely require you to self-isolate for a few days on return.  At least for 48 hours, awaiting the results of a proper test. It may well be that requirement to isolate, or the test will be waived if you have had that extra booster shot.
     
  3. Any tests taken allowing you to travel overseas will not be government subsidised. You will have to pay for them in full.
     
  4. Most airlines that handle the ‘Kangaroo Route’ flights to Europe will need to bring their aeroplanes back in service. The sheer logistics of dusting the planes off, along with crew retraining, international regulations and permits, will take time.  Therefore, in the first half of the year, there will be limited capacity. And you know what that means… prices will be much, much higher than expected.

Normality, to one degree or another, will return around maybe August 2022.

euan's picture
Euan Landsborough

Euan Landsborough is the Managing Director and Tour Designer at Albatross Tours