Two-way travel between Australia and New Zealand began from Sunday night and one of the tasks for the national cabinet is to plot how international borders can ease further in the coming months.
But Scott Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world.
The global death toll from coronavirus has now topped three million people and the prime minister said issues around borders and how they are managed will be handled very carefully.
“But the idea on one day that everything just opens, that is not how this will happen,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.
“It will be happening cautiously and carefully, working very hard on the medical and health protections in place because I’m not going to put at risk the way that Australians are living today.”
The national cabinet will meet on Monday, the first of twice-weekly gatherings following the vaccine rollout being thrown into disarray after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over the age of 50 after blood-clotting was linked to younger people.
Included in discussions will be changes to Australia’s vaccination policy, including state vaccination implementation plans, in the wake of the new advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine and additional supplies of Pfizer doses.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the vaccine rollout has been a “debacle”.
“Scott Morrison has had more than a year to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine but what we have is him giving up on the timetable, giving up on telling Australians what they want to know,” he told reporters in Hobart.
“Australians want to know when they’ll be vaccinated.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is now approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.
He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but going forward, with very strong support of the states, national cabinet will consider ways the states can assist with larger vaccination clinics.
From Wednesday, Victorians aged over 70 will be able to show up to a vaccine centre and get jabbed without an appointment as the state prepares to scale up its rollout.
“We’ve worked around the clock to find solutions to get vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and safely as possible,” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.
But Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who is in the heat of an election campaign, is concerned about the delays and lack of communication from the federal government about the vaccine rollout for residents and staff at disability and aged care residential facilities.
“We are in a good place but we cannot afford to go backwards,” he said in a statement.
A woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The first two cases are still in hospital.
The nation’s chief nurse Alison McMillan recognises there could be hesitancy in being vaccinated, but encourages anyone with concerns to talk to their health professional, GP or nurse practitioner.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, who was until recently the minister for science and technology, did offer some hope for vaccine support in the future.
She says Australia has the capability to manufacture an mRNA type COVID-19 vaccine like Pfizer’s, but is currently not able to produce it at scale.
The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people under 50, a treatment which the government has secured a further 20 million doses, but they won’t arrive until late in the year.
Ms Andrews said it is “absolutely” possible Australia could manufacture an mRNA vaccine, and that work is already under way to try and make possible its production at scale.