Health officials say caution should be exercised as it is now known whether vaccines will prevent transmission.
Australia may not fully reopen its international borders this year even though most of the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, the head of its health department said on Monday, with the country not having recorded any new local cases of COVID-19.
Australia is investigating potential side effects from the Pfizer vaccine after Norway reported a small number of deaths among older people who received the vaccine, but is expected to start its vaccination program next month.
“Even though a large portion of the population is vaccinated, we don’t know if this will prevent transmission of the virus,” Brendan Murphy told public broadcaster ABC.
The country has handled the coronavirus better than many other countries thanks to targeted lockdowns and high rates of testing and contact tracing, and reported no local cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open, has reported four positive cases in overseas travelers, all associated with the tennis tournament, bringing the total to nine.
The event is being held under strict coronavirus protocols with players, coaches and officials brought to Australia on charter flights and spending two weeks in quarantine before the competition begins.
As a result of these cases, people on three of the charter flights are now in strict quarantine, with more than 70 players isolated in their hotel rooms. Other players have been allowed to train.
“I know a number of players have discussed the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as to everyone, ”Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said in response to player complaints about the strict quarantine.
Australia has reported more than 22,000 local cases of COVID-19 and 909 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The main focus of COVID in Australia is currently in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), where an outbreak in the west of the city has prompted other states to impose travel restrictions on across New South Wales or to people in the suburbs affected by the outbreak.
New South Wales State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would consider allowing sites to deny entry to people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Already the airlines have indicated that if you are not vaccinated you cannot travel abroad and I think it will be [an] incitement to a lot of people, ”Berejiklian told 2GB Radio.
“We’ll also be looking at whether we allow sites … to set their own rules if they have a business or if they run a workplace on what they consider safe for COVID.”