Australia set to lift international travel ban early

Australia’s ban on international travel is set to be lifted a month earlier than expected in November.

The New South Wales border will be the first to reopen after 18 months as part of a plan to relax restrictions for states that have reached 80% Covid vaccination rates.

Commercial flights out of the country will resume for jabbed Australians.

Australian national carrier Qantas is to bring forward its international restart November 14, 2021, with three weekly return flights between Sydney and London and three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

It said the two destinations have been the most searched for on its website in recent weeks and said more flights will be added to meet demand if needed.

Qantas said commencement dates of the routes may be updated once the Australian federal government announces the exact date Australia’s international borders will reopen in November, with flights either brought forward or moved to later in the month.

Along with the UK and US, flights to Japan, Singapore, Canada, and Fiji have been flagged as some of the first countries where routes will be served, according to local reports.

Fully vaccinated Australians and permanent residents arriving in NSW will be able to home quarantine for a week, instead of paying thousands to quarantine at a hotel for a fortnight, pending the success of the state’s home quarantine trial.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said the government would consider quarantine-free travel between some countries, such as New Zealand, “when it is safe to do so”.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” he said. “International travel is on track to reopen safely to fully vaccinated Australian travellers.

“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.

“Our government has been finalising plans so Australian families can be reunited, Australian workers can travel in and out of our country, and we can work towards welcoming tourists back to our shores.

“The government’s intention is that once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to Covid-19 will be removed and Australians will be able to travel subject to any other travel advice and limits, as long as they are fully vaccinated and those countries’ border settings allow.

“These changes mean there will be no travel restrictions if you are a vaccinated Australian entering or leaving our shores.

As other states in Australia reopen, the government would provide additional support if they agreed to implement home quarantine.

“To maximise the number of Australians who can return, our government is also offering facilitated flights into any state or territory that agrees to commence seven day home quarantine trials for returning Australians,” Morrison said.

However, unvaccinated travellers will be required to hotel quarantine for a fortnight.

Australia would not implement a ‘red-light, green-light’ system of approved and banned countries similar to the UK, Morrison said.

“You can go where you want to go, subject to the normal [security] restrictions,” he added.

“Australians who want to travel overseas once restrictions are removed will be able to access an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document in the coming weeks to prove their vaccination status abroad.

“We know it has been an extraordinarily difficult 18 months for Australians overseas trying to come home and for Australians with family and friends overseas.

“To maximise the number of Australians who can return, our government is also offering facilitated flights into any state or territory that agrees to commence seven day home quarantine trials for returning Australians.

“We need to ensure that we keep Australians safe without creating unnecessary obstacles to people who have been fully vaccinated overseas from coming to our country.”

But some states such as Queensland and Western Australia have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher.

Sydney – home of Australia’s largest airport – is due to come out of a 13-week lockdown on October 11.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said: “The early reopening of Australia’s international borders will mean so much to so many people and it’s made possible by the amazing ramp up of the vaccine rollout.

“We know Australians can’t wait to travel overseas and be reunited with their loved ones, and literally thousands are waiting to come back home, so this faster restart is fantastic news. It also means we can get more of our people back to work, sooner.

“We welcome the Federal Government’s decision and the work by the New South Wales Government to facilitate the home quarantine approach that makes this feasible. We look forward to other States and Territories getting on board.

“We’d already sold out some of our international flights for December and seen strong demand on flights to and from London and Los Angeles, so we’re confident there will be a lot of interest in these earlier services.

“Beyond the initial rush, the ongoing demand for international flights will hinge largely on what the quarantine requirements are. The shift to seven-day home quarantine for fully-vaccinated Australians with a negative test is a great step towards reducing this closer to what is becoming standard in many countries overseas, which is a test and release program.”

Janice Kurrle, marketing manager for the South Australian Tourism Commission and Australia spokesperson for PATA UK & Ireland, said the update was “a positive step”

“While travel will not immediately be open to foreigners, it’s encouraging to know the Australian government is working towards welcoming tourists back,” she said.

“Australia is one of the last destinations to open in the Pacific Asia region but as a long-lead destination it’s important for us to keep supporting our Australia stakeholders in the promotion of the destination and educating agents planning customer trips for 2022 and beyond.”

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