Australian columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald has published a scathing report about his recent return trip from Bali. Jimmy Thomson, an author, and journalist did not shy away from making his feelings known about his fellow traveler’s apparent disregard for biosecurity measures at airports.
In recent weeks Australia has launched a biosecurity campaign to help prevent foot and mouth disease from reaching Australian pastures. Foot and Mouth Disease is a virus that affects cloven-footed animals like cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. Though the virus poses no threat to human life, people can be carriers of the disease which is why airports are introducing tougher biosecurity measures to prevent travelers from unwittingly becoming a bio-bridge for the disease.
It has been estimated that if a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak occurred in Australia that it would cause upwards of AUD 80 billion in damages to the agricultural sector; not to mention the culling of thousands of cattle.
Tomson’s tirade on his fellow traveler’s behavior is blunt and unapologetic. He talks of holidaymakers returning to Australia from Bali flouting biosecurity measures that are in place to prevent the spread of both Covid-19 and Foot and Mouth Disease. Concerned citizens from farming communities across Australia have been commenting online sharing their fears and urging everyone to take measures seriously.
In his column, published on 26th July, Tomson describes how ‘Despite official airport requirements, teenagers and young adults were unmasked, coughing and sneezing as they queued for food, meeting loud comments to mask up from other passengers with sneers and eye-rolls.’
He didn’t just comment on the maskless ‘brats’ although they were the primary target of his remarks. He shared how Qantas’ pre-flight announcement asked passengers to ‘respect each other’s choices’ to which he responded rhetorically ‘how about enforcing the law?’.
Tomson expresses his suspicions that returning travelers may not have filled out the customs declarations and risk profiling screening forms correctly. He wrote ‘What are the chances of them leaving their designer thongs behind or admitting on the arrivals cards that they trekked through paddy fields or got soaked in white-water rafting outings? Both, by the way, are covered by tickable boxes on the arrivals forms’
Despite his condescending tone, his points are valid, biosecurity measures, including the risk-profiling, can only be effective if people are honest with their responses. Travelers who have visited farming and rural communities in Bali haven’t done anything wrong. Travelers can continue their activities in Bali as they had planned.
All the airport biosecurity teams require is that travelers respond to questionnaires truthfully so that they can sanitize luggage, including shoes, to prevent the spread of the virus.
The columnist reports on his own experience of investigating Foot and Mouth Disease in Bali. He explains how when he asked locals about foot and mouth disease that they ‘had no idea what we were talking about. It’s simply not on their radar. Is there a solution that would keep Bali’s tourism alive while protecting Australia from a disease that could punch an $80 billion hole in our own recovering economy?’.
Bali is currently on the red list for the disease, along with 22 other provinces. There is a ban on the movement of livestock and reports have said that veterinary teams are working to support cattle farmers with vaccinations and vitamin injections for their cattle. Australia has also sent AUD 5 million in resources and technical support.
Tomoson suggests that ‘a radical plan is required’. In his view, all passengers returning to Australia from Bali should ‘should be forced to leave their shoes there. And if you try to smuggle your designer Nikes back, you’d get the same fines as if you were trying to import live monkey’.
He concludes his scathing report with his closing argument to his case ‘surely we can’t trust our biosecurity to spaced-out surfies and mask-brats’.
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