MELBOURNE: Pledging that he will not risk Australian lives, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said the strict measures adopted by his government have avoided 30,000 deaths in the country due to the "raging" COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries.
Addressing a press conference in Queensland, Morrison termed the emergence of new virus strains was a "great risk".
He said all the vaccines being administered across the world may not be equipped to deal with the new virus variants. However, he assured that his government was taking decisions based on the best medical advice available currently.
"The pandemic is raging. The pandemic is morphing. It's changing everyday. When you see the pandemic this year raging through developing countries, then the great risk, as we're already seeing, is new strains, new variants coming through," he said.
"I'm not going to take risks with Australian lives.
I'm not going to do that and I'm going to ensure that we maintain a regime that has so far avoided the loss of 30,000 lives in this country and has seen more Australians come back into work than were there before (the pandemic)," the prime minister said.
He compared the Australian situation to the global scenario which was largely reeling from the pandemic, more devastating than last year.
Australia has so far recorded 29,988 cases of coronavirus, along with 910 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Morrison said, "I understand that we want to be able to prepare to get us in a place where when it's safe to do so, we can make changes."
"But right now, it's not safe to do so. We are working on plans, as I've said many times, working on plans to enable vaccinated Australians firstly to be able to travel around Australia and to be able to move around when states potentially to travel overseas and have different quarantine arrangements on their return with the sign-off from State Chief Health Officers," he said.
Australia's borders were slammed shut in March last year as the coronavirus spread across the world. Only citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to enter the country under some strict COVID-19 border rules.
On April 27, Australia suspended all direct passenger flights from India until May 15 due to the "very significant" spike in COVID-19 cases there.
The Morrison-led government had imposed a temporary ban on travel from India due to the second wave of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The government threatened to prosecute the returnees from India with a possibility of five years of jail term or a penalty of 66,000 Australian dollars (USD 50,899).
The move triggered a backlash in this country with several lawmakers, doctors, civil societies and businessmen criticising the government for "abandoning" Australians in India.
Repatriation flights from India have started since then. Meanwhile, an Australian citizen of Indian-origin has died of the coronavirus in India on Tuesday.
Govind Kant, 47, who lived in Sydney, had flown to India for personal matters before the flight ban had been announced. He had not been allowed to fly back to Australia as he had contracted the virus.
His employer, Trina Solar, Australia, confirmed Kant's death on business and job site LinkedIn.