Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has urged the Australian government to speed up its vaccination program as a top priority so the nation’s borders can re-open.
While conceding he was unfamiliar with the status of Australia’s vaccination program, Branson noted that countries where people had been vaccinated, such as the US and UK, had been able to open.
He told Channel Nine’s Today show there was no reason this could not happen in Australia if the government sped up the vaccination program.
“I honestly have not checked how many people have been vaccinated in Australia but by now, it’s a small country, I suspect most people should have been vaccinated,” he said.
“And if not, it should be the number one priority of government.
“Nothing else matters more to be honest because every single business in Australia will be held back, every single person in Australia will be held back. The economy will suffer.
“So the sooner the remaining people who have not been vaccinated get vaccinated the better.”
The British billionaire also defended Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka after she caused a backlash when she argued Australians needed to live with a level of COVID transmission for “the country’s health and economic recovery” but observed that some people may die.
Branson said he understood where the comment came from, although “it was obviously unfortunate”.
He argued the reaction had been prompted to some extent by how the comment was reported, he said.
“I think we’ve all regretted things we’ve said and I don’t think Jayne is any exception to the rule … I think she’s made that clear,’’ he said. “But she’s doing a great job in keeping Virgin Australia going, starting new routes, employing new people.”
Australia’s vaccination program is behind expectations due to a lumbering roll-out and some fears in the community about blood clots associated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine.