Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke MP, has provided an update to representatives from multicultural communities on Monday afternoon about the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccination roll-out and a potential travel bubble with Greece.
Minister Hawke was joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, and the Head of the Implementation and Primary Care Response and Chair of the Department’s CALD Communities COVID-19 Health Advisory Group, Dr Lucas de Toca.
Travel bubble with Greece:
During the video conference, Minister Hawke was asked by The Greek Herald about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent discussion with the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and whether a potential travel bubble between Greece and Australia was on the cards.
The Minister for Immigration stressed that while he understands the need for “a ray of hope” during this pandemic, a travel bubble with Greece will only be considered once Australia reaches a vaccination target of 80 percent.
“In a sense, all countries are being considered for travel when we get to the right phase in the national roll out map that the Prime Minister has put together,” Minister Hawke said.
“I think it’s important to be frank about where we are at. For Phase C to happen, we need to get to the 80 percent vaccination target… and then we can transition to countries for travel.”
Minister Hawke added that the different vaccinations which are available to people around the world also needs to be considered before international travel is possible.
“Systems are being developed to recognise and deal with different vaccines, deal with travel. In the Australian Government, we’re investing heavily in border management and digital recognition of vaccinations so we can be ready to travel,” he said.
Rise in people getting vaccinated:
On the topic of vaccination, Professor Kidd said although vaccination rates differ between different multicultural groups and early concerns about blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine did lead to some hesitancy, the Federal Government has still seen a recent rise in people getting vaccinated.
“We have seen a real reversal of the hesitancy that we were seeing a few months ago. The number of people who are prepared to get a vaccine right now has gone up considerably,” the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said.
“Some of that is related to more points of access for the vaccine with local General Practices, GP’s and their staff who speak the language of their patient populations, and pharmacies as well have been very important.”
Professor Kidd then went on to give two important messages to multicultural communities about: (1) the need to get people aged 60 and over “vaccinated right now,” and (2) the need for aged care workers to have at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before September 27 otherwise they won’t be able to keep working in the health sector.
Support for small businesses in NSW:
Before the conclusion of the video conference, Minister was asked one final question regarding his thoughts on criticisms around the roll out of small business payments in New South Wales at the moment.
Minister Hawke acknowledged that it is “very unfair” some retail sectors are thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic while small businesses aren’t, and stressed that the NSW Government need to speed up the handing out of support payments.
“From a Federal Government’s point of view, we are paying 50 percent of the bill for the business support and that’s important, but the state is administering the payments at the moment and that will need to be brought forward,” Minister Hawke said.
“I know they’re doing their absolute best right now to get those payments processed, to get them done faster and to ensure that businesses get their money.”
This positive news comes as NSW recorded 356 new local COVID-19 infections today, the highest since the pandemic began, sparking fears of a lockdown extension and the closure of more small businesses.