With Covid getting out into remote NT communities for the first time, there are growing questions about what impact this sort of outbreak will have on future grey nomad travels.
As has been the case with the pandemic right from the start, it is difficult to predict anything with any great confidence.
However, it is clear that the majority of politicians and health experts are tying it all in with vaccination rates.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has already indicated that even when borders open again, tourists could be blocked from visiting the state’s north if vaccination rates remain low.
The Pilbara has the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with approximately 50% of residents having received a single dose, and about 40% fully vaccinated.
WA plans to relax its hard border in January or February, but Mr McGowan told the ABC it was likely that regional areas with low vaccination rates would be closed off from the rest of the state once it reopened.
“It is more likely that double dose vaccinated people would be able to come in and out,” he said. “If you’re not double dose vaccinated you won’t be able to come in.”
Mr McGowan said travellers could also face restrictions.
“We’d have to have a look at tourists if they were double dose vaccinated, because of course tourists can still spread the virus,” he told the ABC. “So they’re the sorts of rules that we’re currently working out.”
He said a decision on whether certain regions would need to be closed off would be made after a date was set for opening the state’s border.
Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall said the prospect of travel restrictions being reinstated was troubling.
“If the Pilbara was shut down for regional travel it would slice the north of WA in half,” he told the ABC. “We’d actually be stopping tour buses, and just West Australians driving north in their 4WDs and caravans — they’d have to stop at the Pilbara and wouldn’t be able to make it to Broome.”
Over in northern Queensland, there is similar concern about lower vaccination rates and concern that grey nomads and other travellers may avoid those areas.
Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, said data shows holidaymakers will take health into consideration when choosing a destination.
“Before Covid, welfare and safety featured highly on people’s considerations, but I think now it is not just high it’s top of the list and we need to be very cognisant of that as an industry,” Mr Gschwind said. “We have to make sure that people feel safe and confident that where they travel to will not put them at risk.”