On October 1, 2021, the Australian government announced that it expects to begin lifting pandemic-related travel restrictions for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents as soon as November. Australia’s move follows the U.S. government’s announcement on September 20 that it would replace its current international travel bans with a new set of vaccination and testing mandates for foreign nationals traveling to the United States.
Reopening Borders for Fully Vaccinated Australians
Under Australia’s National Plan for combatting COVID-19, the easing of travel restrictions will occur on a state-by-state basis. The precise schedule depends on the proportion of a state’s population (aged 16+) that has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the October 1 announcement, once more than 80% of a state’s population has been fully vaccinated, the state will move into Phase C of the National Plan and the following provisions will become effective:
- Fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave Australia to travel abroad.
- Fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents who are currently overseas will be able to return to Australia.
- Australians who cannot be vaccinated, or who are not yet eligible for vaccination (e.g., children), will be treated as vaccinated for travel purposes.
- Testing requirements for international travel will continue, but rapid antigen tests may be allowed.
- Fully vaccinated individuals returning from overseas will be required to complete a seven-day home quarantine.
Travel Restrictions to Continue for Foreign Nationals
Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals will continue under Phase C, including weekly caps on entry and the need to demonstrate a categorical or individual exemption. However, the National Plan does call for loosening some restrictions on inbound travel by foreign nationals, including:
- Increasing the number of student, economic, and humanitarian visa holders who may enter the country each week.
- Gradually reopening international travel, with the potential for quarantine-free travel to New Zealand and other countries.
- Reducing restrictions on fully vaccinated travelers.
As of September 29, no Australian state had reached the 80% threshold to enter Phase C, but several states are expected to reach it in the coming weeks.
The government has not specified a trigger for moving from Phase C to the fourth and final phase of the National Plan (Phase D). Under the final phase:
- International borders may be reopened.
- Caps on inbound entry may be removed for all vaccinated persons, without any quarantine requirement.
- Caps on inbound entry may be removed for non-vaccinated persons, subject to pre-departure and post-arrival testing.
- Inbound travelers from high-risk areas may still be required to quarantine.
Recognized Vaccines and Proof of Vaccination Status
For travel purposes, the Australian government will consider an individual to be “fully vaccinated” if they have received the full course of the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, or Covishield vaccine.
By the end of October, the Australian government will introduce an “International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate” to allow outbound travelers to demonstrate their vaccination status, both at their destination country and upon their return to Australia.
A Global Trend?
Australia is not the only country to begin loosening pandemic-related restrictions on international travel. In addition to the United States, countries such as Japan, Argentina, and Chile have each recently announced plans to relax entry restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers. As the global vaccination campaign continues, more countries may soon follow suit.
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