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International travel ban to lift by November

written by Hannah Dowling | September 9, 2021
International carriers at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Australia’s ban on international travel could now lift as soon as November, pending vaccination rates, just days after the ban was extended to 17 December.

Since March 2020, the federal government has imposed a ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country, unless they receive a valid exemption.

Now, just days after it announced the ban would be extended to mid-December, the government has revealed a new plan to drop the ban as early as November, following the introduction of a fit-for-purpose vaccine passport, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has long suggested that Australia’s international borders will re-open once the country achieves an 80 per cent vaccination rate in its adult population, and that travel overseas will be exclusive to vaccinated travellers.

Currently, just under 40 per cent of Australia’s adult population is fully vaccinated.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Wednesday that restrictions for outbound international travel would be eased once vaccination targets are met, and specifically mentioned New Zealand, the Pacific, and Singapore as among the first destinations to be approved for travellers.

“The national plan makes very clear that once we hit that 80 per cent mark then outbound travel – travel by Australians overseas – will take place and also that we can put in place arrangements for inbound travel as well,” Tehan said.

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The Prime Minister has also suggested on numerous occasions that international travel may re-open to certain Australian states that hit vaccine targets ahead of others. Details of how such a policy would work are yet to be revealed.

At the current rate of vaccination, this could see NSW, Victoria and the ACT re-open to the world in November, while slower states such as Queensland and Western Australia will remain restricted until December.

The news comes just days after it was revealed that Australians could be issued with a vaccine passport for the purposes of international travel as soon as October, ahead of the re-opening of borders.

According to reports, Australia’s vaccine passports for international travel will be available in digital form via travellers’ phones, or in printed form.

Further, the government is reportedly working to enable a person’s vaccination status to be linked to their passport chips, while a plan to introduce a vaccine certificate for travel via QR code is also underway.

The federal government is also currently in discussions with various nations around the globe in order to facilitate travel bubble arrangements for vaccinated travellers.

A spokesman for cabinet minister Stuart Robert said more details about Australia’s plan for re-opening international travel would be released shortly.

“The Morrison government continues to work towards vaccine assurance standards that will be one element of enabling vaccinated Australians to move and travel more freely,” he said.

It comes after Qantas revealed it was gearing up to reintroduce part of its international network by December 2021, off the back of Australia’s current fast-paced vaccine rollout.

However, Qantas did note that the international re-opening is likely to be “gradual”, with a focus on low-risk countries first, including those with high vaccination uptake including the UK, US, and parts of Asia.

From mid-December, Qantas and Jetstar will reinstate international schedules between Australia and low-risk countries, including Singapore, the US, Japan, the UK, Canada and Fiji.

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