International travel is set to restart in November after the federal government announced Australia was on track to hit the 80 per cent milestone in different states.
This means fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to travel to and from Australia without needing an exemption, and with the option of home quarantine.
“Many countries around the world have now safely reopened to international travel and it will shortly be time for Australia to take the next step,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
This will happen on a state-by-state basis, when 80 per cent of people are fully vaccinated.
“States and territories will begin this program at different times, given their varying vaccination rates, but we expect the system to commence in November,” Mr Morrison said.
Australian travellers might still be subject to other countries’ restrictions, but thanks to these changes, the biggest hurdle at home has now been removed.
No restrictions if you’re vaccinated
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, fully-vaccinated adults will be able to freely enter and exit Australia.
People who have a medical exemption and children under 12 will also be allowed to travel freely under the new rules.
All you’ll need to do to qualify for travel is to have a digital vaccine passport, something which the government will start issuing this month.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who are fully-vaccinated will be able to quarantine at home for just seven days after returning home.
Home quarantine is here
This means most citizens and permanent residents won’t have to pay the $3000 hotel quarantine bill in order to travel.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated people, or those who haven’t received a vaccine that’s recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will still have to spend the usual 14 days in hotel quarantine or at a similar facility.
More vaccines to be recognised
This is an important one, because many people in countries like China and India have been immunised with vaccines which haven’t been approved in Australia, but which are still safe and effective.
The three vaccines currently used in Australia are made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine has also been approved by the TGA.
On Friday, the TGA categorised the Chinese vaccine made by Sinovac and India’s Covishield as “recognised vaccines”. Both of these vaccines are in wide use around the world, and both have been approved for use by the World Health Organisation.
“Declaring certain COVID-19 vaccines as ‘recognised vaccines’ is separate to a regulatory decision on whether they are approved for use for vaccination in Australia, which has not been made by the TGA,” Mr Morrison said.
It’s hoped this new scheme will allow more international students from key markets to return to Australia.
Travel bubbles on the horizon
A longer-term goal is for quarantine-free travel to be re-established with low-risk countries.
“And we’ll be working towards completely quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” Mr Morrison said.
This would essentially revive the trans-Tasman travel bubble arrangement from earlier this year, although no dates have been confirmed just yet.
Flights will resume sooner than expected
In the wake of the news, Qantas brought forward the restart of its international passenger flights to November 14.
This will kick off with three return flights between Sydney and London, and three between Sydney and Los Angeles.
“These two destinations have been the most searched on Qantas.com in recent weeks. More flights will be added to meet demand, if needed,” the airline said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
However, the exact date could still be pushed backwards or forwards again depending on the actual day different states’ borders begin to open up in November.
The government also said it’s working with airlines to make sure there will be enough flights towards the end of the year.