International travel is banned until December 17 due to Covid-19 outbreak in Australia
Australians will be banned from going abroad without an exemption until at least December 17, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced.
The national plan will allow international travel once 80 percent of people over 16 have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – but it appears the federal government does not expect this ambitious target to be met this year.
Mr Hunt revealed on Thursday that biosecurity laws banning outbound travel have been extended for a further three months from September 17.
Passengers wearing face masks arrive at Sydney International Airport in May for a Qatar Airways flight
Mr Hunt (pictured) revealed on Thursday that biosecurity laws banning outbound travel have been extended for a further three months from September 17.
“We have extended the biosafety protection until December 17 in accordance with medical advice.
“That includes in particular preflight testing and masks for overseas arrivals and existing restrictions being extended for cruise ships, outbound voyages and points of sale at international terminals,” Mr Hunt said.
Aussies have been banned from leaving the country for vacations since March 2020, and anyone returning will have to pay up to $2,800 for two weeks of hotel quarantine.
Leaving waivers may be granted to people who leave for more than three months or for approved work or compassionate reasons.
Based on current vaccination rates, 80 percent would be reached by mid-November, but experience abroad shows that rates are slow and stabilize above 60 percent when the supply of people eager to get a shot is gone and all that what remains is the reluctant and ambivalent.
Currently, 35.4 percent of people over 16 have had two doses and 59.62 percent have had one dose.
Once the 80 percent rate is reached, arrivals can be quarantined at home for seven days or enter without any quarantine if they come from a highly vaccinated travel bubble country like the US, UK and Singapore.
On Tuesday, Scott Morrison said home quarantine was a good solution to contain the spread of Covid and make it easier for Aussies to travel.
The prime minister also said ultra-cautious states such as Western Australia and Queensland should start allowing home quarantine for domestic travel once 70 percent has been stung.
Mr Morrison was asked about quarantine in a 4BC radio interview on Tuesday after Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk – who has banned residents of NSW from her state – granted NRL stars and WAGs special privilege to enter.
‘I share the frustration about that, but what’s the answer? We have to go to home quarantine,” he said.
Pharmacist Christine Kelly administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Megan English at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo on Thursday
“Home quarantine means placing on that basis for all Australians, for all Queenslanders.
“Right now in South Australia they are in the home quarantine trial and that’s exactly what we can start introducing once we get to 70 percent.
“That means Queenslanders will return home from elsewhere in the country, if… [any form of quarantine] is necessary. At 70 and 80 percent, it’s hard to understand why that would be necessary.’
Mr Morrison said home quarantine for overseas travel would come into effect once the 80 percent jab rate is reached.
‘But if you mainly get to 80 percent’ [you] should be able to return home and be quarantined at home,” he said.
“The answer to future quarantine is basically home quarantine for Australians and as far as we continue to quarantine in the future, that’s what we need for international travellers.
“For workers who are needed to get in, for backpackers who are vaccinated to come back.
“If there’s a need for quarantine once you get past 80 percent, that’s what that should be for. I want home quarantine to become the norm.”
Morrison said lockdowns are doing ‘huge damage’ and wants the country to open 80 percent
In early July, Mr Morrison said home quarantine should be safer than hotel quarantine as there is no need to interact with staff but there is a risk that people will not observe it.
“A vaccinated person who goes into quarantine for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person who goes into quarantine for 14 days,” he said.
Australia could adopt a traffic light system similar to the UKs that rates countries as red, orange, or green, depending on their Covid-19 infection levels and vaccination coverage.
In the UK, travelers from ‘red’ countries must show a negative test and be in hotel quarantine for 10 days, while those from ‘amber’ countries must test negative and be in home quarantine for 10 days unless fully vaccinated.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said she would likely allow home quarantine in NSW for Aussies returning from overseas once the 70 percent jab rate is reached.
Mr Morrison’s national reopening plan allows the international border to finally open to double-vaccinated once 80 percent is fully stung
“Once we hit the double dose of 70 percent, we’ll think about, if not beforehand, how we treat people in quarantine when they get home,” she said.
“If you let fully vaccinated Aussies come home, do you expect them to be quarantined in a hotel for two weeks?
‘Can we take care of them at home as we do with all Covid cases now?’
Also on Thursday, Health Minister Hunt ripped in Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has banned residents from returning from Covid-ravaged NSW.
The move has separated a three-year-old boy, Memphis, from his parents north of the border for two months – and people have been stopped from entering Queensland for health care.
“This is a deep moral failure. Let these people in for medical treatment and for a three-year-old to be fully reunited with their families,” Mr Hunt said.
What are the four stages of opening?
A. Vaccinating, preparing and testing (from 14 July)
Arrival caps halved to 3,035 per week; early, severe and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available in apps like Apple Wallet
B. Post-vaccination phase (when 70 percent will be stung, expected by the end of this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced disabilities; limits for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger limit for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; limited entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation Phase (when 80 percent is pricked, time not announced)
Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting of all outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers; no limits for vaccinated arrivals; increased limits for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles arise with countries like Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not disclosed)
Unlimited arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and unlimited arrivals for unvaccinated people with pre-departure and on-arrival testing