Qantas Commercial: Get Vaccinated And Maybe The Government Will Let You Leave The Country

Australia is caught in a bind. They managed the early stage of the pandemic well, so well that they’ve backed themselves into a corner haven’t had an end game. Lockdowns have increased, frustrations have grown, and citizens haven’t been able to travel abroad – and often even domestically – for a year and a half. And Qantas has a new commercial offering hope.

Australia Kept Covid Mostly Under Control Until Now, But Had No End Game

There was an early outbreak that the country was able to contain through testing and contact-tracing as well as a closed border. It’s possible for remote island nations to keep out the virus, because borders aren’t nearly as porous and they are for most countries. There were scares and outbreaks, to be sure, like when a state quarantine guard slept with an arriving passenger and brought Covid into the community last summer, and with an unvaccinated and unmasked driver of foreign air crew contracting the virus and spreading it.

The country handled the virus so well that vaccination wasn’t nearly as urgent as for the U.S. and Europe. They bet heavily on AstraZeneca, but when reports of side effects especially in younger women started to surface they froze. There wasn’t much virus in the country, so even modest risks didn’t make as much sense to take they thought. And with politicians having bet on lockdowns over vaccines, many even talked against the available vaccines as a path out of Covid.

Australia has Pfizer on the way, and faces a growing outbreak of the Delta variant. Lockdowns aren’t permanent solutions, a virus is going to virus, but can be a bridge to a solution – delaying infections until help arrives. Australia remains one of the least-vaccinated well-developed Western-style countries.

Lockdowns Are Wearing On The Country

Australians are tiring of lockdowns, far stricter than anything seen in the U.S. For instance in the highest-risk areas of Sydney there aren’t just curfews but exercise time limits where residents are limited to being outside for an hour per day. Masks are mandatory outdoors. No one may visit homes, even family members who don’t live there. Work from home is mandatory. Fines are AU$5000 “on the spit” for many activities, though just $3000 for breaking two-person outdoor exercise rules

There are Australians trapped abroad due to limits on the number of people who can enter the country and go into mandatory quarantine. There have also been restrictions on leaving the country, too.

I haven’t been able to visit my family there since 2019. I have two new family members that have been born during the pandemic. Right now some of them can’t even visit each other. There’s been a bubble that allowed travel to New Zealand, but threatened prosecution of Australians who used to that to fly onward to other countries, even.

Qantas Has A New Commercial Offering Hope

Qantas has produced a new commercial: get vaccinated and maybe the government will let you leave the country. I cried watching this.

Even for Australia, The Only End Game Is Learning To Live With Covid-19

In the spring Australia’s government was saying that vaccines might not be enough for the country to re-open. But against the backdrop of protests, with lockdowns no longer leading to the same boosts in popularity for leaders that they once did, their Prime Minister is now saying that once they hit 70% – 80% of the country vaccinated they may have to learn to live with Covid.

At 70%, domestic borders could be opened and then perhaps at 80% they’ll reduce (though not necessarily eliminate) restrictions on international travel. Their politicians are now recognizing that lockdowns are a delaying tactic, so they have to delay to something. That means vaccination (which so far they’ve botched) and better treatments, because a strategy of zero covid isn’t going to work forever. Indeed, it isn’t even working now as the country faces the most daily cases it’s seen so far.

By the way here are scenes from Bangkok, now that Thailand has become basically Australia with better street food.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. lol, “The country handled the virus so well”

    “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”

    I have a strong feeling that even though Aussies are under house arrest and aren’t supposed to speak too loudly (or risk spreading covid!), they no longer believe that statement to be true.

    Virus gonna virus.

  2. My friend lives in Sydney. He is American (vaxed) and his wife is Dutch and they want to leave to go to Europe for 4 months to escape the craziness of Australia and THEY HAVE TO ASK THE GOVERNMENT FOR PERMISSION TO LEAVE. Absolutely insane. Covid zero is basically impossible if people with the vaccine can still spread it.

  3. under certain circumstances, you can get out with special permission as long as you accept the 14 day quarantine upon return.

    i have relatives that had their grandchild born in the US, and got permission to visit.

  4. They handled it so well and then totally dropped the vaccination ball…..
    Joe when you bring up Trump you have to acknowledge that he did a good job with operation
    warp speed, then totally dropped the ball after the election when he went in to full pouting
    mode and did nothing to help the situation when it was at a very critical stage……in addition he created a division in this country that has caused so much damage in so many ways that you have to wonder if even he has to give pause to the monster he created. The other day at a rally in Alabama he tried to make the point that getting vaccinated is safe and important and he was booed. His flock didn’t want to hear it

  5. The first few months of the crisis I envied the Australians. That has been over for some time now. I would 1,000 times rather be a vaccinated American living life freely with a few mask requirements and capacity limits here and there than live indefinitely in a country under house arrest with an East German approach to letting the people out. What I don’t understand is how the politicians get away with it.

  6. @DaveS – “What I don’t understand is how the politicians get away with it.”

    Ummm, they took away the guns.

  7. I’d be curious to know what suicide rates are like in Australia right now – something like this has got to be devastating to people suffering depression or or mental health issues.

  8. @ William

    The data indicate that whereas calls to support lines are up, suicides are not: to quote an article on published 21 July 2021

    “despite experts warning the crisis could result in more people taking their own lives, from suicide registers in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales shows that has not happened, even with key risk factors like unemployment worsening since the start of the pandemic.”

  9. @William

    I’ve answered your question – but it’s being ‘Moderated”. Basically, no suicides are not up.

  10. @ Michael

    If your friends have foreign documentation they can leave the country under the normally resident overseas category. They have until 7 September 2021 during which time their overseas documents can be assessed by our Border Control authorities on departure. New rules kick in on 11 September – then they’ll need to process an exemption.

    If they do not want to show that they live overseas, they can apply under a category that they intend to be away for over three months. This process is undertaken 2 weeks to 2 months before departure.

    Don’t forget, that they will also have to satisfy the entry requirements of any country they intend to enter. For example, if they are going to Germany they may need to complete a digital entry form, have proof of vaccination, may have to enter quarantine , variously, depending upon which countries they have passed through (and for how long) according to an ever changing list issued by the German authorities (last updated two days ago).

  11. @ DaveS

    But we haven’t been living indefinitely under house arrest. Despite what you might gather from the utterly irresponsible and inaccurate reporting by @ Gary Leff, for most of the pandemic we’ve lived without any restrictions whatsoever and enjoyed very low levels of COVID infections and hospitalisations and deaths.

    Health care is managed by the state governments. Outbreaks of the Delta Variant have been contained in Queensland, Northern Territory, West Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. All of these states have managed to keep the Delta at or very close to zero cases. Victoria’s case load is around 50 to 70 per day. The main challenge has been trying to contain the outbreak in New South Wales, with cases running in at 800 per day.

    Where the virus has been more successfully managed, state premiers have gone in hard and fast. Our recent local lockdown in Cairns only lasted for 3 days after 14 months of having no restrictions before that (off the back of an original 10 week lock down in March-May 2020). Brisbane was recently in lockdown for a couple of weeks to manage a Delta outbreak.

    By contrast the premier of NSW dithered and delayed before taking decisive action 9 days after she should have done and that is reflected in the relative case loads for that state.

    In the meantime, after a very shaky start, vaccination rates are finally on track. Australia is about 3 months off a target of 80% (of people over the age of 16 years old) being vaccinated. No doubt, the 12 to 16 years age cohort will be approved for vaccination in our course (this only happened a few weeks ago in the USA).

    We are not hampered in our vaccination rates by the politicisation of vaccination – in the USA surveys show that vaccine hesitancy falls starkly along political lines – over 90% Democrats have or will get the vaccination, but only 53% Republicans.

    It is unlikely Australia will copy the (in)actions of (Republican) states like Florida, where there are a reported 30,000 cases per day and 170 deaths per day, some 17,000 in hospital of which half are in ICU and supplies of liquid oxygen are being diverted from their original purpose of treating water supplies.

    Be safe.

  12. @ DaveS

    I’ve responded to your comments – apparently, my response is being “moderated”.

  13. @ Brian

    To note that the Delta Strain has all but been eliminated in the states of Queensland, Northern Territory, West Australia, South Australia and Tasmania (with zero or close to zero daily cases). That leaves Victoria (50-70 cases per day) and New South Wales (around 800 cases per day). Restrictions apply to the latter two states.

    Every day Australia can keep the virus at bay, the more time Australia has to reach its vaccination goals. Our governments will be able to make decisions based on the lessons of other countries including the UK and the USA (where new cases are trending back towards the 200,000 per day). The national government is also studying the modelling on relative policy strategies for opening up the country at differing vaccination rates (you can read this – it is freely an publicly available online – The Doherty Institute Report – last updated 14 August 2021).

  14. Obviously Australia is returning to its penal colony roots.
    Perhaps the next step is to detach the Australian continent from Planet Earth and launch it into interstellar space.
    Wouldn’t make much difference over the current state of affairs.

  15. @Platy, thank you for your reasonable and thoughtful comments. I was speaking from a personal point of view, knowing that I am vaccinated and highly unlikely to have any serious consequences if I would even get the disease. Unvaccinated people are the ones who should be restricted. I would dread knowing that lockdowns can happen at any time and be of any duration. I do think Australia was lulled into a false sense of security by its isolation; and lacked planning, both for vaccination and for an endgame out of the isolation. I am glad vaccination is now accelerating and hope the lockdown culture will end relatively soon.

  16. @ DaveS.

    Thanks, mate. Incidentally, those politicians who have implemented strict controls have been very successful in Australia. In the state elections held since the start of the pandemic, all state governments have been soundly endorsed with solid election wins (notably in Queensland and West Australia and also Tasmania). The debate has over onto what vaccination rate are needed to enable relaxing of borders and other restrictions. The official report (prepared for the federal government by the Doherty Insititute) cites 70% and 80% (of over 16 year olds) – a dissenting reports cite 90-95% and claim the risk of high mortality if Australia undercooks the target. See

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