Australia to reopen international borders by Christmas 'at the latest'

Travellers will start getting vaccine passports in October and travel bubbles are planned with more destinations

15 Feb 2012 --- The Sydney Opera House and the Circular Quay seen from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia --- Image by © Blaine Harrington III/Corbis

The much-anticipated reopening of Australia’s international borders is set to happen by December, according to the country’s tourism minister.

As soon as vaccination rates hit 80 per cent, Australians will be able to travel overseas with no additional restrictions, said Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment at a National Press Club of Australia event on Wednesday.

In the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic, Australia implemented one of the world’s strictest border controls with international flights restricted and government mandated hotel quarantine in place for all arriving travellers.

But these restrictions look set to ease before the end of the year, as the country ramps up its rate of vaccination. This would be good news for anyone hoping to travel to see family this Christmas.

Speaking at the virtual event broadcast live on ABC-TV, Tehan said that the government was preparing to lift restrictions on people leaving the country, and on the need for hotel quarantine when returning.

“We're doing that preparatory work to make sure that when those international borders open, hopefully at the latest by Christmas, Australians will be able to travel with a QR Code linked to their passport, which will be able to show a proof of vaccination,” he said.

Home quarantine to replace hotel isolation

epa08524112 A passenger collects her baggage after arriving on a flight from Melbourne at Sydney Airport, Australia, 03 July 2020. Victoria state has recently seen soaring cases of coronavirus and incoming passengers from Melbourne will face screenings at Sydney Airport.  EPA/BIANCA DE MARCHI AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Under the country's plans to reopen, each state must have vaccinated 80 per cent of its population over the age of 16 before international travel will be allowed.

Quarantine rules remain in place, however. Tehan also laid out a plan for travellers who can prove they are fully vaccinated to undergo home quarantine rather than hotel isolation upon returning to the country.

Australia recognises four vaccines to help in the fight against Covid-19, including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. From October, the government will start issuing vaccination passports for international travel to citizens who have received one of the approved immunisations.

The government is also planning to set up travel bubbles with other countries, confirmed the tourism minister. Much like the existing set-up with neighbouring New Zealand, these travel corridors would allow freer movement between destinations, and shorter quarantine periods for travellers.

Qantas, Australia’s national airline, has already laid out plans for restarting international flights to some destinations before Christmas.

The UK, United States, Canada, Japan and Singapore were some of the first destinations listed under the airline's plans to begin flying to what it is calling “Covid-safe destinations”.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce previously said that all of the restart plans hinge on the Australian government's policy on opening international borders.

The airline also said that unvaccinated passengers would be banned from flying Qantas when international flights resume.

Updated: September 22nd 2021, 8:29 AM