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Australian border to reopen for first time in pandemic
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 10 - 2021

Australia will reopen its international border from November, giving long-awaited freedoms to vaccinated citizens and their relatives. Australians will very soon be able to jet off overseas with the plan for lifting the ban on outbound travel revealed by the prime minister.
On Friday, Scott Morrison said the government had been finalizing the details and within weeks, parts of the country would move into the next phase of reopening. Under the third phase, international travel is back for fully vaccinated Australians.
"States and territories will begin this program at different times given their varying vaccination rates but we expect the system to commence in November," he said in a statement.
"Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated — for example if they are under 12 or have a medical condition — will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel."
The international travel ban, which is managed by the federal government, was originally in place until Dec. 17, but has been brought forward. Morrison also said states and territories will roll out seven-day home quarantine for returning travelers who are fully vaccinated.
There will be 14 days managed quarantine for anyone not vaccinated or who have a vaccine not recognized by the TGA. "We will also work towards completely quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so," he said.
"Testing is expected to continue to be a requirement of international travel, but subject to further medical advice, Rapid Antigen Tests may be used." Australians will soon have access to a proof of vaccination document to use if they wish to travel overseas and it will have a QR code that is globally readable.
Since March 2020, Australia has had some of the world's strictest border rules —even banning its own people from leaving the country. The policy has been praised for helping to suppress COVID, but it has also controversially separated families.
"It's time to give Australians their lives back," Morrison said. Australia has recorded more than 1,300 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 107,000 cases of infection.
People would be eligible to travel when their state's vaccination rate hit 80%, Morrison told a press briefing on Friday. Travel would not immediately be open to foreigners, but the government said it was working "towards welcoming tourists back to our shores".
At present, people can leave Australia only for exceptional reasons such as essential work or visiting a dying relative. Entry is permitted for citizens and others with exemptions, but there are tight caps on arrival numbers. This has left tens of thousands stranded overseas.
Australian carrier Qantas responded by announcing it would restart its international flying a month earlier. It had already put flights to major overseas destinations on sale from Dec. 18.
Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra are currently in lockdown due to outbreaks of the virus. New South Wales — which includes Sydney — is on track to be first state to cross the 80% threshold, in a few weeks. Victoria — containing Melbourne — is not far behind.
But states such as Queensland and Western Australia have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher. These states have managed to maintain COVID rates at or near zero, after shutting their borders to states with infections.
Airlines have already said they're not ready for the ramping up of services this reopening will require. And with so many details still vague in terms of restrictions and proof of vaccination, this could be a potential headache for border authorities too. — Agencies


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