Australia is to reopen its borders to returning citizens.
Australia has confirmed it is to reopen in November following a 20-month international border closure.
From November 1, fully-vaccinated Australians will finally be able to freely leave the country and hotel quarantine for in-bound citizens and permanent residents will be replaced with a shorter, home-based isolation.
The strict arrivals cap will also be removed for fully vaccinated travellers, enabling airlines to unlock flights previously hammered by the restrictions.
Tens of thousands of Australians are estimated to be marooned overseas, many of whom have been trying to return home since Australia’s international borders closed in March 2020. Around 44,000 have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being stranded.
“The time has come to give Australians their life back,” said prime minister Scott Morrison. “These changes mean there will be no travel restrictions if you are a vaccinated Australian entering or leaving our shores.”
He added that the government is “working towards” welcoming back international tourists.
The reopening is dependent on states reaching 80% vaccination. New South Wales is on track to reach 80% later this month, while Victoria anticipates hitting this target by mid-November.
The picture is less clear in Queensland and Western Australia where premiers in both states have continually pushed back on reopening state borders, having maintained an almost zero Covid transmission record throughout the pandemic. Despite this, both states, along with South Australia, are hoping to reach 80% vaccination by December.
The strict 14-day hotel quarantine for all arrivals into the country has been punishing for overseas families. It will now be reduced to seven days of home-isolation for fully vaccinated Australians. Citizens and permanent residents who are medically unable to receive a vaccine and children aged under 12 years will be treated as fully vaccinated.
The Australian government currently recognises AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna jabs, and is expected shortly to give the green light to Sinovac, COVID Shield, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson.
The reopening will coincide with the launch of a ‘vaccine passport’ in both digital and paper format with a QR code indicating vaccination status.
Qantas has brought forward the date it plans to restart international flights to November 14, with three flights a week to London and to Los Angeles.
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