The New South Wales state government announced on Friday that it would swing open its international borders to returning Australians and permanent residents from November 1 with arrivals no longer expected to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine. The state had also been trialling a seven day home isolation programme but this will no longer be required,
Qantas had been gearing up for an anticipated November 14 restart for international flights after the Australian government announced plans to significantly ease border restrictions earlier this month.
Speaking at a press conference, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said that hotel and home quarantine were a thing of the past for fully vaccinated travellers. Anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated will still be expected to go into hotel quarantine and those numbers will be capped at 210 per week.
“We have reached this vaccination milestone quicker than anyone thought we could, and that is a testament to the hard work of people across the State turning out to get vaccinated,” Perrottet said on Friday.
“Welcoming back fully vaccinated travellers will not only mean families and friends can be home in time for Christmas, it will also give our economy a major boost.”
The national government, however, insisted it hadn’t yet decided when tourists and students might be allowed to return to Australia.
“The Premier (Perrottet) understands that that’s a decision for the Commonwealth Government, not for the state governments,” commented Prime Minister Scott Morrison when asked by a journalist if NSW was being too hasty to suggest that tourists could soon be welcome.
“And when we believe that’s the right decision to make, we’ll make it at that time. I’m going to progress steadily, but at the same time, carefully, and I welcome this first step. I think it’s a positive step.”
Morrison also said there was “no justification” for other states to keep domestic borders closed for even longer on the back of New South Wales’ decision to scrap quarantine. Perrottet, however, told journalists that NSW residents could soon “be travelling to Bali before Broome,” over Western Australia’s reluctance to reopen borders.
Beginning November 1, Qantas will operate five flights per week between Syndey and London via Darwin and four flights per week between Sydney and Los Angeles. Other destinations such as Singapore, Fiji and Vancouver still aren’t scheduled to restart until December 18 but these may now be brought forward.
All passengers flying on a Qantas international flight must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Arrivals entering Australia must also have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure.
Only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be permitted to fly to Australia in the first phase of reopening.
What vaccines will the Australian government accept?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has created a list of ‘recognised vaccines’ which include the four vaccines currently approved for use in Australia. These are Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Moderna (Spikevax) and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen.
In addition, the TGA has completed an assessment of other vaccines and will recognise the Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) vaccines.
What happens if I’ve received a vaccine not on the approved list?
The TGA will be reviewing other vaccines in the coming weeks but for now, anyone who has been vaccinated with a non ‘recognised vaccine’ will have to follow the rules for unvaccinated passengers.
What are the rules for unvaccinated passengers?
Unvaccinated passengers will have to undertake a 14-day stay in managed hotel quarantine in the same way that nearly all other travellers who have come to Australia in the last 18-months have had to. The federal government did not say whether it would increase the caps for managed quarantine from November.
What about people who can’t get vaccinated?
Children under the age of 12, as well as those with medical conditions that prevent them from getting the shot will be considered to be fully vaccinated.
What else do I need?
You’ll need a recognised form of proof of full vaccination plus a negative PCR test within 72-hours of travel. The Morrison government said it was looking to replace the PCR test with a cheaper rapid antigen test subject to further medical advice.
How will Australians prove they are vaccinated?
In the next few weeks, Australia will roll out an internationally recognised proof of vaccination which will include a QR code and will comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.
And when will Australia open to tourists?
For now, the easing of border restrictions is limited to Australian citizens and permanent residents, along with their families. Morrison said the federal government was still working on a plan to welcome back international tourists but did not provide a timeframe for how long this might take.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.