Australia is on track to reopen its borders by Christmas, the minister for trade, tourism and investments, Dan Tehan said at a National Press Club of Australia event on Wednesday (22 Sep). This would be good news for anyone hoping to travel to see family this Christmas.
"People will be able to freely travel outside of Australia with no restrictions or no limitations," Mr Tehan said.
"I do empathize with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year," Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said during a talk that was organized by the National Press Club of Australia but broadcast online due to coronavirus restrictions.
“We're doing that preparatory work to make sure that when those international borders open, hopefully at the latest by Christmas, Australians will be able to travel with a QR Code linked to their passport, which will be able to show a proof of vaccination,” he added.
Under the country's plans to reopen, each state must have vaccinated 80 per cent of its population over the age of 16 before international travel will be allowed. Quarantine rules remain in place, however. Tehan also laid out a plan for travellers who can prove they are fully vaccinated to undergo home quarantine rather than hotel isolation upon returning to the country.
"It's another reason why everyone should get vaccinated and we have to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up -at this rate by Christmas at the latest." Minister said.
Earlier this week, Tehan laid out some of the tasks that will need to happen to get the country on the road to reopening.
"It's incredibly important that we're doing that preparatory work," he said. One of those action items is passing the 80% national vaccination rate. As of September 22, about 38% of Australians had received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
The national vaccine rollout has been so vital that Australia's tourism board created a special domestic ad urging people to get jabbed.
Australia recognises four vaccines to help in the fight against Covid-19, including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. From October, the government will start issuing vaccination passports for international travel to citizens who have received one of the approved immunisations.
"We need to claim back our way of life so that we can visit friends and relatives, get back into the workplace, get our kids back to school, travel domestically and internationally again, and welcome the world back to enjoy all that Australia has to offer," Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia in a press statement when the campaign debuted.
International visitors to Australia will need to verify that they are fully vaccinated before entering the country.
Australia also plans to test out "vaccine passports" with other countries: Singapore, Japan and the United States are reportedly on the list.
Qantas, the country's national carrier, announced that it would slowly resume international flights beginning in October.
Mr Tehan said he hoped to see home quarantine arrangements established across the country, as a way to speed up a return to eventual overseas travel. The states of New South Wales, home to Australia's most populous city, Sydney and South Australia are piloting programs to allow vaccinated travelers to quarantine at home.
Australia will also look at extending travel bubbles beyond the current New Zealand arrangement, which is currently paused due to COVID-19 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria.
In the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic, Australia implemented one of the world’s strictest border controls with international flights restricted and government mandated hotel quarantine in place for all arriving travellers. Australia closed its borders to non-residents in March 2020 and employed a mandatory quarantine system, which severely limited the number of people who could return to the country each week.