Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has confirmed that Australians will be free to travel internationally by Christmas “at the latest”, in keeping with the government’s national re-opening plan.
The tourism minister confirmed that the federal government had no plans to stray from its current national re-opening plan, which allows for the opening of international borders once the national adult population reaches 80 per cent vaccination.
It comes after the federal government revealed a new plan to drop its ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country as early as November.
“I do empathise with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year,” Minister Tehan said.
“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 Tehan said the government was now working to get all the required systems and processes ready and in place to allow people to freely leave and return to Australia.
“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 said.
These vaccine passport QR codes will begin being issued from next month, Minister Tehan said.
The code will live within a phone app, and contain all the same information as your regular passport, as well as your COVID-19 health information.
According to the government, Australians who have been vaccinated will be able to quarantine at home for less than 14 days, rather than enter two-week hotel quarantine, however the specifics of this policy are still being decided.
It is also still unclear if the government will introduce a ‘traffic light’ system, similar to those used by other countries, to dictate terms of travel and quarantine based on how risky a certain country is considered.
Minister Tehan did confirm that the government is in discussion with other countries about setting up quarantine-free travel bubbles with low-risk countries, similar to the agreement that was in place earlier this year with New Zealand.
It also remains unclear when the government will allow overseas tourism into Australia to return, and how this will be managed.
Earlier this month, Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin told Australian Aviation that the government must prioritise the recognition of non-Australian vaccine certificates ahead of the international re-start, to allow for tourists to enter Australia.
Currently, the QR vaccine passport system is only being set up for vaccines approved in Australia, including the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
“While it’s great that our Medicare vaccine certificates could be synced with our passports, we need to be working to recognise vaccines that were administered overseas, so that we can finally once again welcome tourists, and give relief to those industries most affected by the lack of tourism,” Goodwin said.
He also called on the government to clarify its planned procedures and requirements around post-pandemic travel “as soon as possible”, so the aviation industry can adequately prepare.
“At the moment, we still don’t know what procedures will be for passengers coming in from overseas, and what is needed of airports, airlines, staff and government agencies to facilitate that,” Goodwin told Australian Aviation.
“There are long lead times in aviation, so six or 12 months is not actually a long time in our world. So a lot of this planning could have and should have been done a long time ago.”