Australians support managed reopening of borders

A new poll commissioned by the Sydney Policy Lab has found the majority of Australians support a careful reopening of international borders once more people are vaccinated, and from countries where the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

The majority of Australians do not believe the world will be COVID-free for at least five years, however they also support the targeted reopening of borders before then, according to new research.

Polling conducted by Essential Research* for the Sydney Policy Lab over the past fortnight finds:

  • 55 percent of respondents support travel between countries where people are fully vaccinated and COVID-19 is under control (20 percent oppose).
  • 54 percent support entry of international students where they are fully vaccinated and subject to university-provided quarantine (24 percent oppose).
  • 53 percent support entry and quarantine of creative workers where they are fully vaccinated and involved in major projects (22 percent oppose).

University of Sydney Taskforce Sponsors

Professor Tim Soutphommasane, Professor of Practice (Sociology and Political Theory) and Director, Culture Strategy

Professor Marc Stears, Director of Sydney Policy Lab

Chair: Mr Mark Rigotti, Immediate Past Global CEO, Partner and Senior Adviser, Herbert Smith Freehills

Education: Professor Robyn Dowling, Dean, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney

Arts and Creative Industries: Ms Emma Dunch, CEO, Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Civil Society: Ms Violet Roumeliotis AM, CEO, Settlement Services International

Professional Services: Mr Tom Seymour, CEO, PwC Australia

Law: Mr Michael Tidball, CEO, Law Council of Australia

Open society, common purpose

The polling supports today’s launch of the Roadmap to Reopening report developed by the Open Society, Common Purpose Taskforce. The Taskforce was hosted by Sydney Policy Lab at University of Sydney.

Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC and former Premier of NSW Mike Baird will launch the report at the University of Sydney at 2.30pm on Friday 14 May 2021. It is intended the report will be formally presented to the NSW Government as a submission to the National Cabinet.

“The COVID-19 border closures have had a significant impact on universities. The University of Sydney is pleased to support the important work of the Open Society, Common Purpose Taskforce, which calls for a staged, safe process of international re-engagement and reopening of borders, for the benefit of students, our communities and our economy,” the Chancellor said.

Roadmap out of the pandemic

The Taskforce report calls for a staged process of international reengagement based on three public health pillars:

  • widespread and rapid vaccination backed by measures to increase public confidence;
  • rigorous border testing and immunity requirements for incoming travellers, and;
  • scaled up quarantine designed to meet the needs of specific industries.

The Taskforce recommends these pillars be implemented to enable sector and place-specific programs to reopen to the world, including tourism, universities, agriculture and the creative industries.

Critically, the Taskforce calls on the public health measures to be supported by a commitment to an open society, including:

  • economic inclusion measures;
  • returning immigration to pre-COVID levels by 2022-2023, and;
  • an ongoing commitment to national collaboration and collaborative decision-making.

The survey was conducted online by Essential Media from 5 May to 9 May 2021 and is based on 1,092 respondents.

Australia needs a roadmap

Taskforce Chair Mark Rigotti said: “We must accept that global elimination of COVID-19 is unlikely. Australia needs a roadmap to safely reengage with the world with the same success as we closed down.”

“Australia ‘won the war’ by containing COVID and minimising casualties and economic scarring in 2020, now it needs to ‘win the peace’ by safely reengaging with the world in 2021,” Mr Rigotti said.

Incidental outbreaks can not detract from the long-term goal of safe reengagement – this needs to be the number one question we are all asking ourselves every day.

Taskforce Chair, Mr Rigotti

“The future prospects of thousands of Australian will be determined by our success: small business owners reliant on international tourism and international labour, mid-career academics, people who have given their lives to creative industries, farmers struggling to deliver the harvest.

“Safe reengagement requires industry and place specific strategies anchored in public health principles – by guiding by the objective of reopening our society – not reverting into a hermit nation,” Mr Rigotti said.


The Roadmap to Reopening report is launched on Friday 14 May, 2021 at University of Sydney. Top photo: Grace Sui and Tim Fennis, for the Sydney Policy Lab

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