Plans for an imminent transtasman travel bubble appear to have suffered a setback, with the Australian Government warning that the country's borders could remain shut until at least next year.
As borders remained locked down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has again urged Australians to consider a holiday at home.
Despite talk of a "travel bubble" with New Zealand or other countries that have few coronavirus cases, Birmingham warned travellers not to get their hopes up.
Birmingham told the National Press Club it is "more likely" Australians will be banned from overseas travel until 2021, unless under special exemptions for limited business travel and on compassionate grounds.
"I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of Covid to Australia and New Zealand, and in working ... with those countries to find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies,'' he said.
"But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first."
Asked if he was really talking about a travel ban until 2021, Birmingham replied: "Honestly, I think that is more likely the case."
Thousands of Australians are still holding travel credits for cancelled overseas holidays with Qantas and other airline providers.
But Australia could allow international students back into the country sooner, as long as they are prepared to serve out a two-week quarantine period.
"There is a certain logic that extends to say that international students and other categories of visitors to Australia who stay here for a longer period of time can more easily be accommodated because we can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely to date,'' Birmingham said.
"Even today I see a large number of new Covid cases reported out of Victoria. But of the 21 that are there, 15 of them are people who are in quarantine.
"[It's] part of the regulated process of return and they have been identified as having Covid in an environment where they pose little-to-no risk to other Australians and allow us to manage that circumstance of returning Australians.
"International students are the long-stay visitors who go through a similar process, obviously it can be done in a way that achieves the same type of safeguards as we've managed for those returning Australian citizens."