Australia’s stringent travel restrictions will be eased in November – but only for fully vaccinated citizens and residents.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said as each state reaches a vaccination level of 80 per cent the current general ban on international arrivals and departures to and from those states will end.
Speaking in Canberra on Friday, Mr Morrison said: “The time has come to give Australians their lives back.
“It will be time very soon to open international borders again.”
But he made it clear that only Australian citizens and permanent residents will be free to fly in and out.
New South Wales and Victoria, which currently have the highest infection rates as well as the highest quarantine rates, will be first to open. But Queensland and Western Australia, which have lower infection rates and vaccine take-up, may be some way behind.
Since March 2020, Australians have been permitted to leave the country only for exceptional reasons. Those who are abroad and wish to return must apply under a quota system and spend two weeks in “managed quarantine” in a hotel – or the Northern Territory former mining camp of Howard Springs, at a cost of around A$3,000 (£1,600) per person.
Mr Morrison said: “There will be no caps on vaccinated travellers coming back at all.”
He added that Australia will not have a “red list” of high-risk nations, as the UK and other countries do.
“We won’t be going down the green light/red light path,” he said.
In contrast to the UK’s policy towards vaccines administered abroad – which does not recognise jabs from most of the world’s nations – vaccinations will be accepted if they are on Australia’s approved list. They now include Sinovac of China and India’s version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield.
The prime minister made no mention of international visitors – except in a brief mention of overseas students and skilled migrants.
The only hint of any future change for foreigners who wish to visit family or go on holiday was right at the end of his press conference when he said: “Next year, we’ll be in a very different place again.”
Qantas, the national airline, had previously said it would restart international flights on 18 December – if the hotel quarantine scheme were lifted for vaccinated arrivals.
It is not clear how quickly the carrier, and other airlines, will be able to ramp up services.
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