Feakes on Australia-Fiji travel: Borders to open ‘when it is safe’

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Australia recognises the importance of reopening of travel to Fiji but borders between the two countries will only open “when it is safe to do so”, Australian ambassador John Feakes said.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest challenge to the reopening of borders.

The Fiji Times had asked Feakes on progress of discussions around a travel bubble between Australia and Fiji after Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced borders would remain closed until 17 December this year.

“The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, highlighting the importance of putting in place measures which will allow us to reopen travel safely,” he said.

“We recognise that reopening travel is essential to Fiji’s economy, and we look forward to the day we can announce the easing of travel restrictions.

“The Australian government continues to hold regular discussions with Fijian officials about how to resume travel.”

The Fiji Times asked Feakes for a response to the border issue after Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said Fiji’s borders would open on 01 November this year – a statement confirmed by Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong.

In a statement issued on 03 September this year,r Hunt said its human biosecurity emergency period which had been in place since 18 March, 2020, would remain until 17 December, 2021.

He said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had advised that “the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk.”

Up until the COVID-19 pandemic closed Fiji’s borders, Australia was Fiji’s biggest tourism source market, recording about 41 percent of total arrivals in 2019.

SOURCE:FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS