The Northern Territory border will remain closed until at least 2022 marking yet another blow for the broader tourism sector which is calling for a national strategy to reopen borders.
The announcement was made by Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who said they will recruit extra police to keep the barriers in place.
The NT will close its border with Victoria indefinitely, with Gunner telling ABC 24 that 18 months was a “conservative” estimate for when the borders would reopen again.
“We have got an indefinite ban on Victoria, and Sydney keeps bubbling away to a point to I can’t give you a date where that would ever lift,” he said.
“My advice to every Territorian, if you can, stay here in the Territory. You’re safe here, don’t go.”
Gunner also cited a need to protect the Territory’s remote Indigenous population as a reason behind the decision.
Just this month, Uluru traditional owners blockaded the entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park over concerns visitors will put locals at risk. Interstate visitors who had flown in to visit the newly opened park were denied entry and flown back home the next day.
“Territorians first. This is what I think I need to do to make sure some of the most vulnerable people in the world stay safe,” Gunner said.
“I‘m not taking risks here. Your life comes first. This is the Territory-first test. If you’re as safe as us, you’re welcome in. If you’re not, sorry, we’re closed to you.”
While the move is at odds with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has voiced his desire for borders to reopen, the public is generally supportive.
Australians are more worried about stopping a second wave of Covid-19 than the associated debt or economic turmoil, according to polls.