The Prime Minister has suggested that the government could introduce quarantine-free travel bubbles for tourists from Japan and South Korea by the end of this year.
It comes as Australia prepares to open its two-way quarantine-free bubble with Singapore on 21 November, after Singapore opened its borders to fully vaccinated Australians earlier in the month.
“Singapore opens up on the 21st of November, and I think we’ll move fairly quickly beyond that into Korea and Japan, and before the end of the year I hope we’re opening up even more,” Prime Minister Morrison said on Wednesday.
“We have just got to get through the next couple of weeks. Australia has been through a lot.”
While currently double-jabbed Australians are now free to leave the country and travel back into NSW, ACT and Victoria without any length of quarantine, where they are allowed to travel is largely dictated by the entry requirements of each country.
Currently, Japan is not yet welcoming tourists and returning Japanese citizens and residents must be double jabbed and enter 10 days of quarantine on arrival. Meanwhile, South Korea has only just begun easing its domestic COVID-related restrictions.
It comes as Fiji reopened its border to fully vaccinated Fijian passport holders and residents, ahead of its planned international reopening to double-jabbed tourists from 1 December.
In October, the federal government announced that its ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country will lift from 1 November, and NSW, ACT and Victoria later announced that they would all welcome returning Australians from overseas with no quarantine requirements.
At that time, the government also said it will “work towards” establishing a number of quarantine-free travel bubbles, similar to the agreement previously held with New Zealand, which will see the return of tourists to Australia for the first time in over 18 months.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the government’s next steps would include introducing additional travel bubble arrangements that won’t require any length of quarantine at either end of the trip “when it is safe to do so”.
Previously, it had been suggested that a quarantine-free travel arrangement would be introduced with Singapore, plus the existing trans-Tasman travel bubble – which is currently suspended – could be expanded to include the Pacific islands, including New Caledonia, Tahiti and the Cook Islands.
Earlier, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan confirmed 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.
The quarantine-free travel arrangement for Australians travelling to New Zealand remains suspended, as Auckland continues to operate at Level 3 COVID restrictions.
The New Zealand government announced in September that it would extend the suspension of travel between Australia and New Zealand for a further eight weeks, to 19 November.
Even so, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it would be “extremely unlikely” that New Zealand would reopen its border to Australia in November, due to its ongoing Delta outbreak in Sydney and Melbourne.
Robertson said the country would keep its eyes on the vaccination rates across Australia and within the states over the next eight weeks.
Meanwhile, as of 1 November, travellers from New Zealand are welcome to enter Australia without quarantine.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the one-way bubble would require travellers to show proof of a negative PCR COVID test three days prior to departure.
“Tourism Australia will look to scale up its marketing activities in New Zealand, with an immediate focus on building confidence and broadening knowledge of the depth of Australia’s tourism offering,” said Minister Tehan.
“The resumption of quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia is another important marker on our road to recovery and it will encourage more Australians to dust off their passport and plan their next holiday.”