NEWS
17/06/2020 4:49 PM AEST | Updated 18/06/2020 10:08 AM AEST

Australia Says Borders Likely To Stay Closed Until 2021, Qantas Cancels International Flights

The government says borders will likely stay closed until 2021.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.  

Qantas has axed all international flights until late October except for its service to New Zealand.

The airline on Thursday confirmed the cancellation plans in a statement to AAP. 

“With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October,” a Qantas spokesperson said. 

“We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

Qantas said it would add more international flights to its schedule if borders open and demand returns. 

Meanwhile Australia is unlikely to reopen its border to international travellers until next year but will look to relax entry rules for students and other long-term visitors, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.

Although Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Birmingham said a quarantine rule for returning citizens could be applied to international students and other visitors who plan to stay for a long period of time.

“We can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely,” Birmingham said in a speech to the National Press Club.

James D. Morgan via Getty Images
Qantas Boeing 737-800 aircraft parked on the east-west runway at Sydney's International airport on May 20, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. 

The return of international students will be a boost for universities facing big financial losses with the border closed as international education is Australia’s fourth-largest foreign exchange earner, worth A$38 billion a year.

Australia has had more than 7,300 cases of the coronavirus and 102 people have died from COVID-19, the disease it causes.

It recorded its biggest daily rise in new infections in more than a month on Wednesday, with the most of them in Victoria.

Victoria reported 21 new cases overnight, of which 15 are returned travellers in quarantine, taking the total tally for the day to 22 cases, with some states yet to report their data.

Many Aussies have been banking on the pending trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Both the Ardern and Morrison governments have promised it’s something they’re working on.

The Tourism Restart Taskforce wants trial flights to start in July while New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said September was a more reasonable timeframe.

Meanwhile New Zealand is no longer free from the new coronavirus after health officials say two women who flew from London to see a dying parent had tested positive.

Until Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without any new cases and had declared that everybody who had contracted the virus had recovered, aside from the 22 people who died.