Australians who have received their Covid-19 vaccinations could soon be able to leave the country and return with less harsh quarantine requirements as part of a new trial.
According to The Guardian, a new pilot could be trialled within six weeks, with federal health minister Greg Hunt reportedly revealing the plan in the Coalition party room today.
The publication claims modelling kicked off on Monday, and the program could commence this winter.
Greg Hunt Minister for Health revealed the proposal to the Coalition. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia
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However, fully vaccinated Australians would likely still not be able to travel freely as they did before the pandemic, with movement potentially limited to nations where vaccine status can be readily confirmed, such as the UK, US, Singapore and Canada.
A “grading” system could also be introduced to rank the risk of travellers bringing the virus back home, with different restrictions attached to different gradings.
Australia officially closed its borders in March 2020, in a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was when a two-week hotel quarantine requirement was first brought in.
At the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison recognised that the majority of cases coming into the country were from overseas.
“The reason for [the travel ban] is about 80 per cent of the cases we have in Australia are either the result of someone who has contracted the virus overseas or someone who has had a direct contact with someone who has returned from overseas,” Mr Morrison said.
“The overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported.”
While there has been a strict travel ban on Australians going in or out of the country, 140,000 citizens or residents have been granted exemptions to travel overseas for critical business or compassionate reasons.
Because limited quarantine beds are available and flight caps have been imposed, 40,000 Australians still remain overseas.
However, the first major breakthrough was Australia’s long awaited travel bubble with New Zealand, which was announced in April 2021.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Joe Allison/Pool/AFPSource:AFP
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Under the special arrangement, New Zealand allows Australian travellers to enter the country without mandatory hotel quarantine.
For Kiwis coming into Australia, the one-way bubble that began in October 2020 is still in place.
As of this week, there are rumours that the Pacific Islands will be joining that travel bubble, however, the plan hinges on the effectiveness of the nation’s vaccination drive.
Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said at a News Corp Australia travel event recently that the federal and New Zealand governments were deliberating expanding quarantine-free travel to include a number of Pacific destinations.
Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan says the Pacific Islands could be part of Australia’s next travel bubble. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Nicole ClearySource:News Corp Australia
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This could allow Australians to holiday in destinations such as the Cook Islands, New Caledonia or Tahiti.
“That once again would be a great signal of confidence that the bubbles can work,” Mr Tehan said in response to the discussions.
“Obviously we are going to have to monitor what is occurring in our region and to see if there are future opportunities.”
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