Australia International Borders To Reopen For The First Time Since Covid Pandemic

Source-The-Star
  • Australia will be reopening its international borders from November 2021 onwards for fully vaccinated individuals.
  • The mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine which costs around A$3,000 (RM12,540) will be replaced by 7 days of home quarantine for fully vaccinated Australians or permanent residents. 

Australia International Borders To Reopen For The First Time Since Covid Pandemic

After almost more than a year since nationwide lockdowns took place in Australia, its citizens are finally seeing the fruits of their patience in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Now, the Australian government has decided to reopen its international borders from November onwards. This would give long-awaited freedom to fly vaccinated citizens and their relatives. Having one of the world's strictest border rules since March 2020 is no joke! They have even banned people from leaving their own country. Although initially, the policy has been praised for helping to suppress Covid, it has also controversially separated families.

Pertaining to this, PM Scott Morrison said, “It's time to give Australians their lives back."

According to Mr Morrison, people would be eligible to travel when their state's vaccination rate hit 80%. As for foreigners, travel would not be immediately open but the government said it was working “towards welcoming tourists back to our shores".

As for Amy Hayes, who lives in the English town of Reading, Berkshire, she claims that she has not been back to Queensland in nearly three years, said it was “encouraging to see things moving in the right direction. But I'll believe the borders have reopened when I see it and hear the stories of stranded Aussies being able to get home uninhibited."

Another person who's overjoyed with this piece of news is Henry Aldridge who is excited to fly back to the UK for Christmas to see his parents and five siblings in London. Apparently, when they heard the news, his partner Shana, a nurse from Ireland who lives with him in Sydney, nearly broke down.

He said, “We're pretty excited. The first year and a half [of the pandemic] we looked on at the UK and thought, we're pretty happy here. But the last few months haven't been ideal."

Adding on, he also said that as the lockdowns were extended and the country recorded more and more cases, the travel ban started to feel “a bit absurd".

He also stated that “It seemed silly – you still have to quarantine to come home to a country that's in lockdown."

Happy tears of joy aside, some people are actually against this idea. David Mullahey in Western Australia – which has restricted entry to Australians in other parts of the country – told the BBC he was against changing the travel rules.

Justifying his statement he said, “Covid has hardly touched us here and we've had limited deaths. Why should we risk being put in the same scenario as Victoria and New South Wales? I don't see how we can consider lifting international border controls when the government can't control Covid in those states."

Currently, people can leave Australia – which has recorded more than 107,000 cases of Covid-19 and just over 1,300 deaths – only for exceptional reasons such as essential work or visiting a dying relative. As for citizens and others with exemptions, entry is permitted but there are tight caps on arrival numbers, resulting in tens of thousands stranded overseas.

The PM has also stated that Australia's mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine, which costs each traveller A$3,000 (RM12,540), would be replaced by 7 days of home quarantine for vaccinated Australians or permanent residents. As for unvaccinated travellers, they must still quarantine for 14 days in hotels.

The Australian carrier, Qantas responded to this statement by announcing it would restart its international flying a month earlier. Actually, it had already put flights to major overseas destinations on sale from 18 December.

Image Source: Travel Daily

In Australia, currently, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra are in lockdown due to outbreaks of the virus —prompting a surge in the vaccine uptake in recent months.

As for the vaccination rate, New South Wales – which includes Sydney, is on track to be the first state to cross the 80% threshold, in a few weeks. Victoria, consisting of Melbourne, is not far behind.

However, states such as Queensland and Western Australia have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher. These states are examples of those who have managed to maintain Covid rates at or near zero, after shutting their borders to states with infections.

The reopening of international borders is a hugely anticipated announcement for thousands of Australians both here and overseas, after nearly 2 years of isolation. 

Airlines have indeed mentioned that they are not ready for the ramping up of services this reopening will require. With the immense number of details still vague in terms of restrictions and proof of vaccination, this could be a potential headache for border authorities too. Now, NSW or Victoria may allow their fully vaccinated residents to travel abroad and come back to home quarantine but Western Australia, for example, will most likely be reticent to do that and take on increased risk. Somehow, it would come to a situation where it could be easier for people in some states to travel to London for a vacation than it is to go to Perth!

The key vaccination thresholds are part of Australia's broader plan to emerge from lockdowns and “live with the virus".

According to Tim Soutphommasane, an academic and former Australian race discrimination commissioner, Australia had become a “fortress nation with the drawbridge pulled up to the rest of the world".

He said, “What we're seeing now with this announcement of borders being reopened is akin to Australia re-entering the world, and it's long overdue."

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