International travellers and tourists could be barred from entering Australia for some time with the country unlikely to reopen its borders until next year.
The destination is a favourite location for young Britons looking to travel around on gap years but it shut its borders early in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, reports MirrorOnline.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said: “I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off.”
He said that the country would look to relax entry rules for students and other long-term visitors.
But the minister stressed 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.
In a speech to the National Press Club, Mr Birmingham said: “We can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely.”
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 ($26.14 billion) a year.
Australia has had more than 7,300 cases of the coronavirus and 102 people have died from conditions linked to Covid-19.
Following Mr Birmingham’s statement Australia’s largest airline Qantas announced it was axing all international flights, except those between the country and New Zealand until October.
A Qantas spokeswoman told the Mail : “‘With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October.
“We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
“Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule.”