Australia PM Scott Morrison seeks to reopen borders

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an end to internal border controls ahead of a meeting with state and territory leaders on Friday.

The government has instead suggested using local lockdowns to control the coronavirus outbreak.

“Australia was not meant to be closed, Australia was meant to be open,” Mr Morrison told parliament on Thursday.

The country has recorded more than 26,000 cases and 678 deaths.

States and territories have imposed strict lockdowns and barred entry to citizens from other parts of the country as they try to tackle the pandemic. The harsh measures have attracted controversy, with many backing the controls but others opposing them.
Morrison reportedly wants to use the idea of a hotspot, so authorities can use localised lockdowns instead of state-wide restrictions.

According to broadcaster 7News, this would be areas with more than 30 community transmission cases in the space of 10 days – which would apply currently only to Melbourne and parts of Sydney.

But it is unclear whether all premiers will agree with the proposal. Both Western Australia and Queensland have suggested they want to keep their frontiers controlled.
Also at issue are external borders. There is currently a cap on international arrivals, but Australian citizens stranded abroad are clamouring to return home.

“We need to come together and ensure that we are clear with Australians that we will seek to make Australia whole again by Christmas this year,” Mr Morrison told lawmakers on Thursday.

“That Australians come together the way they always would at Christmas, so they can spend their important time with family.”

It comes after a couple in New South Wales lost one of their unborn children amid confusion over whether they could enter Queensland for treatment due to strict border controls.

After developing complications in her pregnancy, Kimberley Brown and her husband Scott sought to travel to Queensland’s Mater Hospital, just two hours away from their home in New South Wales.

They instead ended up taking an emergency flight to Sydney. The couple have since learnt they lost one of their unborn twins.

While initially winning international praise for controlling the pandemic, in recent months Australian states have had to impose strict measures to control rising case numbers. (Courtesy BBC)