It’s official: fully-vaccinated Aussies will no longer require an exemption to depart Australia from Monday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt officially made changes to the Human Biosecurity Determination last night to allow fully-vaccinated Australians to leave the country without needing to apply for government permission from 1 November 2021.
Those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will still need a travel exemption and will be subject to passenger caps and quarantine arrangements when returning to Australia.
“We want Australians to be able to reunite with their loved ones, whether it’s for births, weddings or just to visit family,” Hunt said.
“Vaccination is the most effective way to protect our community against COVID-19, and I’d like to thank every single Australian who has come forward and received a COVID-19 vaccine, which has helped us get to this point.”
In a joint statement with Hunt, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews reiterated the Prime Minister’s comments that Australian citizens and permanent residents will be the first priority for overseas travel, with fully-vaccinated skilled workers and international students expected before the end of this year.
As a result of the Health Minister’s decision, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) said its Smartraveller website would remove its global ‘Do not travel’ advisory and update travel advice levels for 177 destinations based on the latest risk assessment.
At this stage, no destination will be set lower than Level 2 (‘Exercise a high degree of caution’).
DFAT has also issued a Global COVID-19 Health Advisory with the Department of Health to provide advice for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
So far, the countries Australians will be allowed to visit without having to undergo quarantine upon arrival include the UK, the US, Canada, Italy, Greece, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco and South Africa.
Singapore will reopen to Australians from 8 November, and Thailand will only ask travellers to spend one night in hotel quarantine.
Since the government closed the international border in March 2020, Australians have been barred from leaving unless they obtain a special exemption.
New changes to the Human Biosecurity Determinations also simplify the pre-flight testing requirements to be three days (rather than 72 hours) and ensure that decisions on exemptions to testing are taken on the basis of recent medical advice.
Hunt said the changes were made on medical advice around the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccination for travelling Australians.
“Australian citizens and permanent residents who want to travel overseas will need to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine, with the second dose occurring at least seven days prior to travel,” he said.
“These changes will also facilitate travel by children under 12 years of age.”
Queensland will keep its quarantine requirements in place until 17 December, when international travellers who are fully vaccinated and have returned a negative test will be allowed to home quarantine. It will scrap quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers once its vaccine rate reaches 90 per cent, most likely in early 2022.
With most states now providing clear reopening dates, international airlines have begun announcing their resumption of Australian flights, with a handful promising to return much earlier than expected.
Locally, Qantas has brought forward international flights from Melbourne in response to the state’s opening plan, with Melbourne to London flights kicking off from 6 November twice a week, and Melbourne to Singapore flights resuming from 22 November with three services per week.
Both routes will increase their frequency to daily from 18 December.
The national carrier also recently brought forward its Sydney-to-London-via-Darwin route to 14 November.
Featured image source: iStock/Pyrosky