The arrival of COVID-19 into our world has rocked humanity to the very core in virtually all aspects of life. It has seen many governments place restrictions on people, particularly here in Victoria, Australia. Surreal activities like lockdowns, remote working/learning, and perhaps the most controversial, mask-wearing, have become a new and mandatory normal. However, the most peculiar of these may be none other than international and interstate border closures.
The slamming of these doors on migrants, immigrants and citizens alike has caused extreme uproar in society and has prompted heated debates on the matter. So, let’s take a closer look at the gains and the losses that border closures have brought and what these changes have taught us.
The restrictions have decreased Australia’s risk of uncontrollable outbreaks due to COVID-19:
Australia, undoubtedly, is in one of the best positions globally in terms of controlling and minimising the risk posed by Coronavirus. We owe this to the rigorous measures that came into action as soon as a global pandemic was proclaimed by the World Health Organisation.
The Australian Federal Government made the difficult call on the 20th of March, 2020, to shut its borders to all people overseas. However, the action prevented the threatening spread of growing cases outside Australia to come onshore. It ensured that citizens could stay as protected as physically possible from potential threats of virus outbreaks and allowed Australia to maintain virtually stable health systems and policies throughout the entirety of the pandemic. The method of shutting off borders proved to be effective in the fight against this new and unpredictable virus.
The potential drop in crime rates, particularly border crimes:
Many countries have started to report significantly lower crime rates recorded as a result of COVID-19 measures. Illegal entering of a country has subsided, along with many other violent crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking. Drug trafficking within the country also saw a drop-off rate of about 1%. The border closures, therefore, boosted national security to a certain extent.
Stranded citizens and family members:
One of the main glaring problems resulting from border closures was the shutting out of Australian citizens and residents. The forced alienation of people who call Australia home saw many protestors hit the streets. Even as the Federal Government refused to allow people back into the country, desperate pleas echoed all around the globe from people trying to get home. Families, faced with months of separation from loved ones, incurred increased costs due to systems such as quarantining and the rising cost of airline tickets back home.
Businesses facing long-term deficits:
The industry that has been hit hardest by this pandemic, and the border restrictions that it brought with it, is obviously tourism and entertainment. The lack of the millions upon millions of tourists attracted to the natural beauty of Australia has brought tremendous instability within our communities. Towns and suburbs that thrived in the touristic atmosphere withered when the downpour of visitors came to a near standstill. Yet destinations within Australia have not been the only losers in this game. Flight companies and businesses that dominated the national stage, such as Qantas and Virgin Airlines, began to face the potential loss of billions of dollars. The fall of air travel brought the industry to a halt, sucking away at one of the life sources of the Australian economy. Many people lost their jobs, with Qantas alone, compelled to cut at least 6,000 jobs to deal with their financial misfortune. Other businesses that relied on backpackers and casual workers through temporary visa holders also suffered from the decline in visitor numbers. The Goulburn Valley, a nationally recognised fruit and food source in Australia, was forced to drop millions of dollars worth of crops and other fruit and consumable goods due to shortages in staff and part-time/casual workers.
International students and the effect on Australian Universities:
Another valuable asset destroyed thanks to border closures was Australia’s higher sectors of education. Universities that rank in the top 50 globally saw almost half of their international students cut off from re-entering the country to continue their studies. Research has also shown that Australia saw a decrease of 210,000 foreign enrolments to universities, chopping almost half of their international students off their lists. According to University World News, Australia is anticipating losing $1.8 billion due to decreased revenue from international students in 2021 alone.
Border closures have worked both in favour and not in favour of government policies and societal values. Some key takeaways are that border closures are an effective method of disabling virus transmission. However, there should be policies in place providing support to the Australian community for their welfare and the state of the nation’s economy.
This article was written by JJ, a year 10 student, currently undertaking work experience at Hammond Taylor.