Prime Minister Morrison signals Australian borders may be closed until mid-2021

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he remained hopeful of forming a travel bubble with New Zealand. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled that Australia's borders may remain closed to most international visitors until the middle of next year as the coronavirus crisis escalates across the world.

Mr Morrison was asked whether he shared the view of Qantas Airways chief executive officer Alan Joyce that there was little chance of travelling overseas for at least 12 months.

"As you look around the world and you see the intensity of the virus escalating, not decelerating, then I think it is not unreasonable for Alan Joyce to form the view he has," Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday (June 26) after a meeting of the National Cabinet.

"No one really knows and that's the problem."

The Prime Minister said he remained hopeful of forming a travel bubble with New Zealand and noted that other nations had expressed an interest in reaching arrangements given Australia's success in largely containing the virus. "That doesn't necessarily mean that they will be invitations we take up," he said.

Australia closed its borders to non-residents in March and has previously said they will likely remain shut until the end of the year. Qantas on Thursday announced it would cut 6,000 jobs and ground its entire fleet of 12 Airbus A380 superjumbos for at least three years because of the outlook for international travel.

Mr Joyce said that while the airline had good prospects for recovery in the domestic market, it would be "years before international flying returns to what it was." Overseas services won't return in any material manner before July next year, he said on a media call.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp, Mr Joyce said "it's very clear that the borders won't be open for a long time" due to the spread of Covid-19 across the world.

"Even if we find a vaccine, it will be some time before that's active," Mr Joyce said. "So we think a prudent assumption is some time in the middle of next year. It could be May, it could be June, it could be July, it could be later."

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