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Australians to enjoy interstate and international travels from November

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces reopening of international borders starting November and new acceptable vaccines for entry to Australia

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Eager to leave or come back home? Australians will be able to start travelling to and from selected local and international destinations with conditions, but more lenient for those who have received two doses of a recognised COVID-19 vaccine. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 1 October that Australia will allow international travel starting next month for states which have achieved 80 per cent vaccination rates. Home quarantine will be on pilot test in November in New South Wales for Australian citizens and immigrants returning to Australia, provided they are fully vaccinated. An exception to this rule is if the arriving passenger is medically exempt or below the age of 12.

After completing the pilot, seven day home quarantine is expected to be rolled out to all states and territories.

The commencement of international travel and home quarantine program will be at different times for each state and territory, depending on when they are able to reach the 80% fully vaccination goal. A negative COVID-19 test will also be expected before travelling.

Prime Minister Morrison has said that the move is an effort to restore the Australian way of life prior to COVID-19. According to Morrison, “We’ve saved lives. We’ve saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country.”

Standard health protocols remain in place for unvaccinated individuals or those who have received their dose or doses, but their vaccine brand is not recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). These requirements include pre-flight COVID-19 test and hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. 

Local and travel destinations

Commercial airlines Qantas, which also operates Jetstar, and Virgin Australia have revealed the first tranche of international routes once borders open. The ‘COVID-safe’ countries on the Qantas list include the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Canada, Fiji and Bali. 

Qantas has released a statement that the rollout of international flights will commence before the earlier planned mid-December up to February next year. 

Interest in international travel has peaked, as evidenced by web searches for destinations. Qantas Group Chief Executive Alan Joyce noted in his released statement, “We saw a 175 per cent spike in web searches in the week after we announced our plans and we’ve seen strong bookings for December and January for our flights to London, Los Angeles and Singapore in particular.”

Morrison said that Australia will not apply a ‘red-light, green light’ system of banned and approved countries but reminds Australians to still look to Smartraveller for advice on whether to pursue travels to countries with high COVID outbreaks.

Airlines have also cautioned those who intend to leave Australia should note the changes in restrictions in other countries.

Qantas has also made flights between Sydney and Melbourne available from 5 November, which is the date Victoria is expected to reach 80% double dose vaccination.

Accepted vaccines

Morrison has confirmed on 1 October that the TGA now recognises Sinovac and Covishield for incoming travelers once the international borders open next month. Currently, TGA acknowledges Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen. 

Widening the shortlist to include the Chinese-made Sinovac and the Indian-manufactured CovidShield opens doors to re-entry international students and skilled workers from China, India, and other Southeast Asian countries. Entering travelers who have been inoculated with these vaccines will also be allowed to home quarantine for seven days upon arriving in Australia. 

The TGA said it would continue to study other vaccines for recognition as more data are made available. 

The government will also be finalising access to an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document, which will become an important part of the travelling process both to and from Australia, and around the world.

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