As NSW starts to relax its lockdown restrictions, federal and state governments are preparing to lift international border restrictions earlier than planned.
In a video posted to Facebook, Prime Minister Scott Morrison (who, side note, actually refers to himself as ‘ScoMo’ on his official Facebook page) outlined what the future would look like for Australia as the nation reaches 62% double dose vaccination of the over 16 population.
Morrison highlighted the fact that international borders would be reopening much earlier than the planned 17 December repeal of the international travel ban, with news.com.au reporting that date as November 1.
The PM had previously announced that international borders would be reopening next month, but a specific date had yet to be set.
The plan, which currently applies only to NSW, with the second-highest vaccine rate in the country, seeks to fast-track the roll out of home quarantine which is currently being trailed in NSW, SA, and QLD. This is one of the crucial blockages to international travel.
“The NSW Premier and I have been discussing how we can accelerate our plan to open international travel when home quarantine is made available,’’ Mr Morrison said on Sunday.
“I know the NSW Government is looking at ways to fast track home quarantine in November and if that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border into NSW sooner.
“Now, that would mean home quarantine for vaccinated Australians wishing to return home via Sydney and giving the option for international travel for vaccinated Australians to leave and return.”
Another major issue with the re-opening of borders is the remaining travel caps on passengers into the country. Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed to Radio National that the caps would be scrapped with the opening of international borders.
The caps on arrivals, put in place along with the ban on international travel in March 2020, have “kept us safe,” Hunt said, but with alternative arrangements for quarantine in place, they could now be removed.
“We can remove the caps for those returning Australians if they can get home quarantine. We want to see everybody home as quickly as possible.”
The plan has a number of key issues, one of which being the fact that many state borders are still closed and could be for some time. Australians wishing to return home would still have to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense if they were to travel back into the country via Sydney and then onto another state.
Strict rules over entry into various states also still apply, and it is unclear how easily the transition between states would be for returning travellers.
Some have also criticised the government for not prioritising the return of Australian citizens back home, many of whom are still stranded overseas. As it stands, the plan is to open the country state by state, in accordance with state regulations and willingness, to anyone wishing to enter the country, so long as they are vaccinated.
This could mean a spike in demand for flights which may see those financially struggling to get plane tickets priced out of the initial opening.