With vaccine rates ramping up across the country — with some parts of Sydney seeing first-dose rates as high as 85% — Australia is preparing for when we will finally be released from the grip of COVID.
Already, vaccine passports have been touted as a means of negotiating the pandemic, with vaccinated citizens granted the right to travel while international restrictions remain in place.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already spoken in favour of the move and news this week has shown that the PM is keen to follow through on the idea with the announcement that Australians could be using vaccine passports within weeks.
The federal government will start issuing international COVID-19 vaccination certificates from October for Aussies to prove their vaccination status. Those who aren’t vaccinated will initially be barred from flying.
Vaccine passports will either be available in printed format or accessed on phones. Work is underway to link vaccine status to the digital microchips in passports. In July, the federal cabinet put a plan in place to create international vaccine certificates as a QR code. They could also use “visible digital seal” technology to ensure legitimacy, as backed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The government is also in discussion with other countries to work out which vaccines will be recognised in international travel bubble arrangements.
Morrison is speaking with state leaders over how best to integrate federal vaccination data with state check-in apps so that passports and personal information can be linked and used to access places like restaurants, pubs, and stadiums when vaccine rates hit the magic 70 and 80% figures.
So far, 39% of the eligible population — or more than eight million Australians aged 16 and over — are fully vaccinated. Australia is expected to reach 70% full vaccination by late October and 80% by early November.
Home Quarantine Is Essential to Travel
In order to travel internationally, home quarantine will have to be on the cards as no one is going to want — or even be able to afford — hotel quarantine for two weeks upon return to Australia.
Morrison has flagged home quarantine as key to reopening borders.
“Home quarantine is where we go next. And the length of that quarantine also was what we’re looking at,” Morrison has said.
Currently, all travellers to Australia must undertake a mandatory two-week quarantine at their first port of arrival regardless of vaccination status. This is generally paid for at the travellers own expense and costs roughly $3000.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is considering different quarantine options for vaccinated people entering Australia.
It’s still unclear exactly which vaccines will allow arrivals to avoid the strict hotel quarantine measures and more details are expected to be released soon.
Qantas Seeing Record Interest
In response to Australia’s growing vaccination rate and its heart-breaking vaccination ad, Australian carrier Qantas has seen search for international flights tripled in the last week.
Qantas, who recently announced that they would return to international travel by December 18, is preparing for a huge influx of interest as Australians begin to prepare for the end of lockdowns.
The Qantas digital team has reported that searches for international flights on the site jumped 175% in the past week, with flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London being the most popular.
Qantas international chief executive Andrew David has said that it’s obvious that Australians are ready to get back to travelling internationally as soon as possible.
“So many people have missed out on seeing loved ones who live overseas or taking a well-deserved break,” Mr David said.
“While it’s up to the government to determine exactly how and when our international borders re-open, Australia is on track to meet the 80% vaccination trigger by December, which means international travel is within reach.”
However, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has again confirmed that the airline will ban unvaccinated passengers from international flights when borders reopen.
Speaking to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle series on vaccination, Joyce said that Qantas will employ a policy requiring proof of vaccination before flying.
“Qantas will have a policy that internationally we’ll only be carrying vaccinated passengers,” he said.
“Because we think that’s going to be one of the requirements to show that you’re flying safe and getting into those countries. We’re hoping that can happen by Christmas.”
As part of its ‘Be Rewarded’ campaign, Qantas released a proper tearjerker of an ad showing what the near-future could look like. It features families going to Disneyland, friends attending overseas weddings, and families reunited.
Qantas has also announced free rewards to anyone who proves their vaccination status to the company. Anyone who uploads their vaccine certificate to the site can claim free frequent flier points, vouchers, or member points.
Since the start of that promotion, more than 300,000 people have uploaded their vaccination certificates according to the company. Qantas has also given out 220 million frequent flyer points in response.