The long-awaited vaccine passport for international travel is due to be rolled out by the Australian government from Tuesday this week, as the country prepares to reopen its international borders for the first time since March 2020.
It comes as NSW officially hit its 80 per cent vaccination target in its adult population, and follows the NSW Premier’s announcement that the state will restart quarantine-free overseas travel for fully-vaccinated citizens and residents from 1 November.
Dubbed the International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate, the vaccine passport for overseas travel will work in a similar fashion to existing digital COVID-19 vaccine certificates.
The vaccine passport will contain a QR code that can be readily scanned for verification by border officials and will be available for download via the MyGov website from Tuesday morning.
Further, the digital document is linked to a person’s physical passport, with travellers required to provide their passport information when they request the vaccine passport from Medicare.
Once downloaded, the document can either be printed and used physically, or stored digitally on a smartphone.
The federal government has promised that the certificates are as secure as a traditional passport and contain a higher level of encryption than the domestic proof-of-vaccination certificate.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who oversaw the creation and rollout of the international travel vaccine passport, said he expects Australians to welcome the new process.
“Australians understand when you travel overseas, countries require documentation to prove who you are,” he said.
“In the same way, for example, that for the last 20 years, Australians, when they travelled to Africa, they have had to carry a little international vaccination book that showed the Yellow Fever vaccination.
“This is exactly the same.”
Minister Robert stated that while not all countries require proof of vaccination in order to enter, Australia does, so travellers will need to have the vaccine passport organised ahead of any planned overseas trips.
Last week, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that from 1 November, international arrivals who are fully-vaccinated will no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine.
The number of arrivals that are not yet fully vaccinated, and therefore need to enter 14-day hotel quarantine, will be capped to 210 people per week.
The Premier did note that additional advice on possible testing requirements for overseas arrivals will be provided “in the coming days”.
The announcement appears to be a slight deviation from the national plan, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month, which specified a seven-day period of home quarantine for those returning to Australia.
The Prime Minister later confirmed that NSW was free to restart international travel from 1 November with no quarantine for vaccinated travellers, however, reiterated that foreign tourists will not yet be granted permission to travel to Australia, despite NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet seemingly suggesting they could.
Notably, in a significant concession, the federal government will allow the parents of Australian citizens and residents to join their families here, however.
It is unclear if other states will follow NSW and drop quarantine requirements entirely for double-jabbed Australian citizens and residents, or if they will welcome the seven-day home quarantine.
In light of the announcements, Qantas also revealed that it had moved up its planned restart of international flights to 1 November for flights connecting Sydney and London, as well as Sydney and Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed additional details on what the future of travelling internationally will look like for Australians.
He stated that Australian passengers will likely need to undergo at least four COVID tests, as well as be fully vaccinated, when flying the airline internationally.
Joyce said that passengers will generally be required to complete a pre-flight COVID test both before leaving Australia and prior to their return flight, as well as complete two additional tests during their seven-day home quarantine stay, on top of being fully vaccinated.
It is currently unclear what the protocol will be for passengers who contract the virus while on their travels, and if they will be unable to board any, or certain flights back to Australia.
According to the Qantas boss, the airline is working with the IATA to develop a new Qantas smartphone app that passengers can access to upload and verify their vaccination status and COVID-19 test results ahead of their flight, based on IATA’s Travel Pass technology.
Joyce said another app is also in development that will use geolocation and facial recognition technologies to ensure that passengers are complying with home quarantine requirements, however he added, “there is a level of trust with this”.
Joyce said it will be the responsibility of the passenger to ensure they have an appropriate location to complete their home quarantine.
“There will be an electronic arrival form that people have to fill in to come into the country which will have the details of where they’re staying … and there will be requirements for people on all of that to tell the truth and to be honest because they’re legal forms.”