Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has stated that Australians will be able to travel overseas by Christmas “at the latest,” in accordance with the government’s national re-opening strategy.
The tourism minister affirmed that the federal government has no plans to deviate from its existing national re-opening strategy, which calls for the opening of international borders once the national adult population is vaccinated to 80%.
It comes as the federal government announced a new proposal to lift the country’s prohibition on Australian citizens and residents departing as early as November.
“I sympathize with Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel abroad this year,” Minister Tehan stated.
“It’s yet another reason why everyone should get vaccinated, and we must keep to the national plan that will see our international border open — at the very least by Christmas.”
Minister Tehan stated that the government is currently working to ensure that all of the necessary procedures and processes are in place to allow people to freely leave and return to Australia.
“We’re conducting the preparatory work so that when those international crossings open, perhaps by Christmas,” he added, “Australians will be able to travel with a QR Code attached to their passport, which will be able to show proof of vaccination.”
Minister Tehan stated that these vaccine passport QR codes will be distributed beginning next month.
The code will be stored in a phone app and will include all of the same information as your standard passport, as well as your COVID-19 health information.
According to the government, vaccinated Australians will be able to quarantine at home for fewer than 14 days rather than entering two-week hotel quarantine; however, the specifics of this regulation are still being determined.
It is also unclear whether the government will implement a “traffic light” system, similar to those used by other countries, to prescribe terms of travel and quarantine based on how unsafe a particular country is deemed to be.
Minister Tehan did disclose that the government is in talks with other nations about establishing quarantine-free travel zones with low-risk countries, similar to the arrangement reached earlier this year with New Zealand.
It is also unclear when the government will allow foreign tourists to return to Australia, and how this will be controlled.
Earlier this month, Australian Airports Association CEO James Goodwin told Australian Aviation that the government must prioritize the recognition of non-Australian immunization certificates before the international re-start to allow tourists to enter Australia.
Currently, the QR vaccination passport system is only being used for vaccines licensed in Australia, such as those manufactured by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
“While it is wonderful that our Medicare vaccine certificates may now be synced with our passports, we must continue to work to recognize vaccines delivered abroad so that we can finally welcome tourists and provide relief to those industries most hurt by the lack of tourism,” Goodwin added.
He also urged the government to define its post-pandemic travel protocols and standards “as soon as possible” so that the aviation industry can appropriately prepare.
“At the moment, we don’t know what protocols will be in place for passengers arriving from outside, or what airports, airlines, workers, and government agencies will need to assist that,” Goodwin told Australian Aviation.
“Because there are long lead periods in aviation, six or twelve months is not a long time in our world.” As a result, much of this planning could and should have been completed a long time ago.”