October 5, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

On Friday Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that many restrictions on international travel to and from Australia will be lifted for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents once states and territories reach 80 percent vaccination coverage amongst their populations aged 16 and over.

Although NSW and the ACT are expected to reach their 80 percent thresholds this month, Morrison flagged November as the month when freer international travel will be allowed.

Currently, most Australians are required to apply for an exemption to leave the country and the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents who are overseas has been limited by caps on the international arrivals – throughout most of the pandemic, at best around 6,000 people have been able to return to Australia each week, with NSW taking the vast majority.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to travel freely to any country in the world – providing entry isn’t blocked by measures in place in the destination country – without requiring an exemption. For fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents returning to Australia, arrival caps will be removed and a seven-day home quarantine period will replace the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine requirement.

For unvaccinated arrivals or those who have received a vaccine not approved for use in Australia or flagged as “recognised vaccines” by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), arrival caps and the longer hotel quarantine requirement remain in place.

By and large, Australia remains open only to Australian citizens and permanent residents and closed to other international visitors, although Morrison has flagged the return of international students and skilled migrants in 2022.

Alongside the four vaccines approved for use in Australia – the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines – the TGA has now deemed the Sinovac and Covishield vaccines as recognised for the purposes of entering Australia as a vaccinated arrival. With these vaccines heavily used in China, India and through Asia, this is a promising development for future international business events to Australia, for which these countries are large markets.

Testing is set to remain part of quarantine process for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers, although rapid antigen testing may be used for vaccinated travellers in home quarantine.

In response to the Prime Minister’s announcements, Qantas has moved forward to start of international flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles to November 14.

At this stage, other international flights are scheduled to resume in December.