One of the biggest hurdles for the travel industry has been that no-one knows when we can really step aboard a plane or ship and go overseas.
The result: 15,000 travel agents have lost their incomes and jobs, hotels and attractions have been mothballed or simply closed for good.
But now, at last, we can see a way forward. The National Cabinet’s vaccination thresholds are clear: 70 per cent fully vaccinated to prevent more lockdowns; 80 per cent will allow you to pull out your vaccine passport at immigration as your leave for that overseas vacation.
And the timing? Well, that’s not hard to work out either. If we can step up the vaccination rate, we could get to 70 per cent by November. More likely, according to the pundits, is December.
And 80? Well that last 10 per cent shouldn’t be long in coming: some say January, others February, but March should see us hit the target.
It’s taken 18 months to hear these targets. And with many states in lockdown as your read this, it seems a long way away.
But it’s not. After all this time, another four or five months is easy. More importantly, it means we can start planning and even booking with confidence.
Of course, the Government has displayed a degree of “vaccine hesitancy” in terms of predictions. All Scott Mr Morrison would say on Friday was Australia will reopen to the world once 80 per cent of the “eligible population” are double-dose vaccinated.
The Prime Minister also said he believed the 70 per cent threshold would be reached by the end of the year. The PM mentioned Christmas. But, of course, he is a cautious politician facing an election in May. Others suggest November as a real possibility if we can only persuade the population that AstraZeneca is OK.
While we wait, Mr Morrison snap lockdowns were still the best option.
It’s a four-phase approach. We are in Phase A, and no-one wants to say here. For the travel industry, it’s a painful limbo that is killing one of our most important economic lifelines.
The second phase, known as phase B, will be reached when seven in ten of the eligible population have vaccinated – and that means each state and territory also achieving the same average individually.
That’s a bit of a problem. While the Eastern states are now swimming towards their targets like our gold-winning Olympic swim team, WA is recalcitrant.
But this level will minimise serious illness, hospitalisation. It’s when you “vaccine passport” will be a handy weapon to help you face fewer restrictions. The 6000-person cap on international arrivals will be restored and there will be larger caps for those who have a double-jab. Even vaccinated foreign students and economic visa holders will be allowed in.
But Olympic Gold is phase C, when eight in ten of us are vaccinated.
There will only be ‘‘ highly targeted lockdowns’’ not State closures. So booking a holiday at home won’t be the lottery it is today.
‘‘We will lift all restrictions on out-bound travel for vaccinated Australians and we’ll extend the travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries,’’ the PM promised.
That offers the hope of Singapore, London or even Washington. Depending, of course, on how their own vaccine programs are going.
And the last stage? Well it seems a distant memory but life returns to normal. There is no vaccination target for this – probably because no-one dares contemplate what might happen if another variant arrives.
And the timing? There are only two countries at 70 per cent. The UK and Isreal. If the UK can do it, so can we.
“ We’ve actually delivered and administered more vaccines than the state of Israel now in volume terms, so I believe we can get this done,” said Mr Morrison on Friday.
The latest vaccination figures released includes a record 210,742 vaccines administered nationally in the 24 hours to midnight on Thursday.
Almost 80 per cent of over 70s have had a first dose and almost 41 per cent have had jab number two. Some 65 per cent of over 50s have had their first dose and 25 per cent have received a second. Around 40 per cent of the total population aged over 16 have had a first dose and 18 per cent have had a second.
All of which should lift your lockdown spirits.
Now pass me that brochure and my vaccine passport!