Australia's borders won't reopen until 2021: Qantas cancels international flights until October

Australia's tourism minister says the country's borders might not open until 2021 - but New Zealand may still get a look in earlier.

On Wednesday, Senator Simon Birmingham told the National Press Club in Canberra "in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off".

Asked whether that was more likely to resume next year, he said " I think that is more likely the case".

Mr Birmingham encouraged Australians to holiday domestically, with international travel forbidden for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus threat.

He said the government might eventually look at short-term overseas travel to countries other than New Zealand that have similar success in suppressing coronavirus.

But several times while answering questions he referred to New Zealand as a separate case.

"In terms of other countries and how we look at shorter-term visitation, that becomes much more challenging once you move beyond New Zealand," Birmingham said.

"We will progressively and carefully step through what we can do to reopen. That's what talks with New Zealand are about, and I hope we can see that advance."

In a radio interview later on Wednesday, Birmingham said opening up a less restrictive arrangement with other countries would happen "very slowly and very carefully".

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Asked what he was thinking about New Zealand, he said: "look as soon they're ready I hope that we'll also be ready. There's a bit of logistical work to be done at our airports just to make sure that we're not having flights of New Zealanders who we know have got next to no risk of bringing Covid ... arriving at the same time and queuing up at customs in the same way as flights returning Australians or others from greater hot spots."

On Thursday, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters told Radio New Zealand hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble had not been jeopardised after blunders at the country's border.

Two women who arrived from Britain were granted compassionate leave to drive from Auckland to Wellington without first being tested for Covid-19, and have since tested positive.

Also on Thursday, Australian airline Qantas said it had cancelled most of its international flights until late October, except for services to New Zealand. That decision followed Birmingham's comments.

Qantas signalled flights could resume if travel between Australia and other countries opened up.

"With Australia's borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October," a Qantas spokesperson said early on Thursday.

"We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

"Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule."

Stuff.co.nz with AAP

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