Brisbane airport covid-19 international arrivals
(Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

It has taken the potential criminalisation of Australians desperately trying to return home for the penny to finally drop. Australia’s policy of COVID-19 elimination is unworkable and grossly unfair. Elimination by definition requires borders to be shut, quarantine to be continued and extraordinarily expensive tracing, testing and lockdowns to be maintained.

To this point, it was widely believed that the majority of Australians supported our elimination stance. The resounding election victory of Mark McGowan in WA and the narrower success of Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland seemed to support this. But a Lowy Institute poll (taken before the India criminalisation threat) suggested that perhaps Australians aren’t quite so naive after all. Of the 2000 people surveyed, 58% supported vaccinated Australians being able to freely leave the country (18% of whom supported no entry or exit restrictions at all).

The question of opening borders is one which requires a full understanding of the risks. As soon as the borders open without quarantine, we will likely have a number of COVID-19 cases and inevitably some deaths. But once the genuinely "at risk" members of the community are vaccinated, the likely number of fatalities will be less than the seasonal flu (which in 2019 killed almost 1000 people).